In a recent meeting with GOP Senate and House leadership, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine discussed potential modifications to a voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative. The governor is keen to see these changes implemented before parts of the law take effect next month. However, a key Democratic lawmaker who has been a strong advocate for cannabis reform argues that Republicans missed their opportunity to shape policy on this issue months or years ago.
Governor DeWine assured voters that the proposed revisions would not be surprising and would still honor the “spirit” of the reform. The primary focus of these changes would be to curb youth consumption, reallocate certain tax revenue, and bolster resources to prevent impaired driving. The governor had previously hinted at this meeting with Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Jason Stephens following last week’s election, where voters approved legalization with a 57-43 percent majority.
DeWine emphasized the importance of implementing changes to the statutory measure before adult legalization of possession and cultivation becomes legal on December 7. He believes that it would be difficult to “put the genie back in the bottle” after the fact and that it would be beneficial for everyone to have a clear understanding of the rules and how the system will function. Both Huffman and Stephens have expressed their interest in amending the cannabis law, particularly concerning THC limits and tax policy.
A spokesperson for the Senate GOP majority also mentioned that the legislature might consider amending the statute to clarify some ambiguous language regarding THC limits and that tax rates are a concern. Last week, Governor DeWine acknowledged that Ohioans have clearly expressed their desire for legal marijuana.
He assured that the state would ensure this, but also stressed the importance of fulfilling their responsibility to all Ohio residents, whether they voted for or against the initiative. He emphasized the need to implement this in a responsible and respectful manner, or as he put it, “the Ohio way.” However, both chambers have limited time to introduce and pass legislation addressing the governor’s and lawmakers’ concerns before personal possession and cultivation become legal.
The Senate is currently scheduled to meet only twice before December 7, and the House has four session days to act. Rep. Casey Weinstein, a Democrat who has championed cannabis reform in the legislature and sponsored bipartisan legalization legislation, stated that Ohioans have made their voices heard loud and clear at the ballot. He urged the leaders in the legislature to respect and uphold the will of the voters. Weinstein also expressed his disappointment with the legislature’s decision to get involved in setting the rules for legal marijuana only after the ballot measure forced the issue. He hopes this experience will teach them that bills with overwhelming bipartisan support deserve hearings. The Ohio Department of Commerce has published an FAQ guide for residents to learn about the new law and the timeline for its implementation. However, they noted that the policies may be subject to change depending on legislative action. Meanwhile, organizations that campaigned against Issue 2 are planning to undermine the newly approved law, with some planning to pressure the legislature to entirely repeal legalization before it’s even implemented.
In contrast, some Ohio lawmakers, including Rep. Dave Joyce, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, expressed their support for the initiative. As Ohio voters approved statewide legalization, activists also achieved a series of less-noticed victories to decriminalize larger amounts of cannabis in three Ohio cities, according to preliminary county election results.