Ohio Becomes the 24th State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Ohio, where legislators authorized medical use of marijuana in 2016, went further on Tuesday, becoming the 24th state to legalize recreational use. According to projections by NBC News and The Hill, voters approved Issue 2, which allows adults 21 or older to publicly possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. With 57 percent of ballots counted, 56 percent of voters had said yes to the ballot initiative, which also will create a system to license and regulate commercial sales.
That’s assuming Ohio legislators do not rewrite or override the rules established by Issue 2, which they have the power to do with any “initiated state statute,” as opposed to a constitutional amendment. Before Issue 2 was submitted to voters, the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly passed up a chance to enact it, and now the measure returns to the legislature, which can revise it before it takes effect.
“I definitely think that if it passes, there are problems in it that need to get addressed,” Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R–Lima) said before the election. “I will advocate for reviewing things or repealing things or changing things that are in it.”
Which things? Huffman was not specific. But in a speech last month, he warned that marijuana legalization could precipitate a “mental health crisis” in Ohio. “When we see more drug use, when we see more teenage mental illness, more teenage suicide,” he said, “people may say, ‘We should bring this back a little bit.'”
Unsurprisingly, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group that ran the Issue 2 campaign, thinks the measure should be implemented as is. “We think that Ohio voters have a right to expect that their elected officials follow election results and respect the will of the people,” coalition spokesman Tom Haren said in response to Huffman’s comments.
Issue 2 was backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the Green Party of Ohio, and two members of the state’s congressional delegation: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rep. David Joyce (R). Their argument was pretty straightforward: that marijuana should be treated like alcohol, which would replace the black market with a regulated industry, generate tax revenue, and “end unfairly harsh punishments for minor marijuana offenses.”
Opponents included a bunch of Republican legislators, several law enforcement groups, and Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, who worried about “increased use by underage kids”—a fear that has not materialized in other states that have legalized marijuana. Three Republican legislators employed starkly anti-capitalist rhetoric, complaining that Issue 2 “puts profits over people” by legalizing
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