Ohio effort to legalize recreational marijuana gets enough signatures for November ballot

Marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in Ohio in November, the secretary of state’s office confirmed Wednesday. 

Petitioners submitted 127,772 signatures from all over Ohio to qualify for November a referendum to legalize the growing and sale of marijuana to people 21 and over. They needed about 124,000 signatures — 3.5 percent of the votes in the last gubernatorial election. The signatures also had to cover at least 1.5 percent of voters from half of Ohio’s 88 counties.

“We are grateful to the thousands of Ohioans who helped us get to this point and are excited to bring our proposal to regulate marijuana like alcohol before Ohio voters this coming election day,” Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol leader Tom Haren said in a statement Wednesday.

If Ohio passes the marijuana law, it will be the 24th state plus D.C. to fully legalize the drug. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but dispensaries took three years to open due to regulation challenges.

The proposed law would allow any person over 21 to grow up to six plants at home and impose a 10 percent tax on marijuana sales.

A study from Ohio State University found that the plan could generate about $275 million to $450 million in tax revenue after five years.

The move is popular among Ohioans, according to opinion polling. About 58 percent of Ohioans support legalizing marijuana, according to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll from late July. That includes over three-quarters of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans.

However, even if the measure passes, it could face opposition from the state legislature. Because it is an initiated statute, it could be modified or repealed by Ohio lawmakers. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has previously stated that he does not support legalized marijuana.

Marijuana will be joining abortion rights on the ballot, as Ohio is also scheduled to consider a constitutional amendment which would provide “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits.”

Both measures on the same off-year ballot could drive more voters to the polls. A special election earlier this month to consider a constitutional amendment drew record turnout for August votes. 

That vote was to consider an amendment to change how amendments are passed. It would have required more signatures to get a proposal on the ballot and a 60 percent vote to enact an amendment instead of 50 percent. It failed, with 57 percent of voters against.

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