COLUMBUS — An organization hoping to regulate marijuana in Ohio has changed routes on legalization. 

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced Tuesday it will now try passing a state law instead of through a constitutional amendment, which was the original plan, as outlined in March 2020.

“We are proposing to regulate marijuana for adult use, just like we do for alcohol,” said Tom Haren, a spokesman for the group, in a statement. “Our proposal fixes a broken system while ensuring local control, keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and benefitting everyone.” 

The coalition submitted its proposal, along with more than 1,000 signatures, to the Ohio attorney general’s office on Tuesday. The AG has 10 days to review the summary proposal.

The group would need to collect 132,887 signatures of registered Ohio voters to put the measure before the Legislature.

Lawmakers would then have four months to either pass, reject or pass an amended version of the bill.

If the legislature does not pass the bill as it stands, the group said it would collect another 132,887 signatures to present the issue to Ohio voters on the November 2022 ballot.

The proposed law calls for legalizing the consumption, cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sale of marijuana to people aged 21 and up. It also allows people to grow up to six plants per person and 12 plants per household.

The tax could bring in $400 million a year. It would go to:

• $150 million, around 36%, to social equity and jobs.

• $150 million, around 36%, to communities that host dispensaries.

• $104 million, around 25%, to addiction treatment and education.

• $12 million, around 3%, to the Division of Cannabis Control (the agency that would regulate the industry.

Read the entire proposal here.

State Rep. Darrell Kick, R-Loudonville, said he has not read the proposal in its entirety but that he would not be in favor of the state law. Kick, who was elected in 2016, represents Ashland County and portions of Medina and Holmes counties.

“I don’t know if we really have the full effects of long term use,” he said. 

He said he continues to be a proponent of medical marijuana, but that he has heard from business owners and legislators in states where recreational pot has been legalized. 

“They say ‘don’t do it.’ But if I were a betting man, it would probably pass whether I’m for it or not. I don’t know when that would be. But I’d be a ‘no’ vote at this time,” he said of recreational marijuana in Ohio. 

The last time Ohio attempted to legalize recreational pot was in 2015 through a constitutional amendment. The effort failed, but paved the way for the state’s medical marijuana program.

Medical marijuana has been in effect in Ohio since 2016. 

Today, there are 34 licensed cultivators, 58 dispensaries, 47 provisional licenses for processors and 9 provisional licenses for testing. There are 215,874 registered patients and 650 doctors who can recommend marijuana for 25 medical conditions, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Board.

The program has overseen $471.2 million in sales since April 2019.

Critics of the state’s medical marijuana program have said it is too expensive, hard to navigate and that restrictions have led to low participation. 

Kick has not heard of any efforts on the horizon to revamp the program and that he would have to “see the legislation” before saying whether or not he would be in support of such an effort.

The group’s announcement comes on the heels of a federal effort to legalize marijuana. Senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, all Democrats, unveiled the first-draft of a bill on July 14.

The highlights of the bill, dubbed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, include descheduling cannabis as a schedule 1 narcotic, expunging prior convictions, a way for people to petition for resentencing and maintaining states’ authority on individual marijuana policies.

Read the bill’s summary here.

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