Marijuana Legalization

Ohioans began casting votes this week for a citizens’ initiated measure (Issue 2) to legalize and regulate the possession, home cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis for those age 21 or older.

Several statewide polls conducted in recent months show majority support (59 percent) for the measure, with strongest support among Democrats and Independents. Nevertheless, several interest groups have come out in opposition to the initiative, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, claiming that regulating the adult-use cannabis market will jeopardize workplace safety.

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano responded to these claims earlier this week in an op-ed in The Columbus Dispatch, stating: “Studies assessing the impact of adult-use legalization laws have failed to support the alarmist rhetoric espoused by Issue 2’s opponents. … According to an exhaustive review by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, ‘There is no evidence to support a statistical association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.’”

In a separate commentary, published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Armentano added: “No provisions in Issue 2 weaken or limit existing workplace drug-testing policies for cannabis. …. Further, studies consistently show that employees who consume cannabis during off-hours are no different than their peers. Their workplace performance doesn’t differ from that of their co-workers, many of whom consume alcohol, and they do not pose an increased safety risk.”

The ballot proposal allows for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or 15 grams of marijuana extract by adults. Ohioans could purchase marijuana at retail locations or grow up to 12 plants in a private residence (where at least two adults reside). Retail cannabis products would be taxed at 10 percent and sales are anticipated to generate between $276.2 million to $403.6 million in annual cannabis tax dollars by the fifth year of sales. Municipalities can opt out of allowing retail sales if a majority of elected officials decide in favor of an ordinance to do so.

Because the proposed measure is a statutory question rather than a constitutional amendment, state lawmakers have the option of amending its provisions if it is eventually approved by the voters. On Wednesday, members of the GOP-led Ohio Senate passed a resolution urging voters to reject the initiative. The resolution makes a number of false and misleading claims, such as: “Marijuana use can irreversibly reduce intelligence,” and “Marijuana use more than doubles the risk of developing opioid-use disorder.” In fact, numerous studies show that cannabis exposure is not associated with long-term changes in either brain morphology or cognition, and most people who consume cannabis eventually reduce or cease their use of opioids.

If passed, Ohio will be the 24th state to legalize the adult-use marijuana market, and the 14th do so by a public vote.

Additional information about the Issue 2 initiative is available from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

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