Roughly three out of five Ohio voters support a marijuana legalization measure that will appear on November’s ballot, according to a newly released poll, with nearly two thirds of respondents saying they believe legalization in the state is “inevitable.”
With less than two weeks before widespread early voting kicks off, 55 percent of respondents said they “definitely” or “probably” will vote yes on the legalization initiative, while about 34 percent “definitely” or “probably” will oppose it. Only about 11 percent remain undecided, says the survey of 843 likely voters, which was commissioned by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and conducted in mid-August by FM3 Research.
All told, including those who said they “lean” yes, 59 percent of respondents favor passage of Issue 2, which would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older.
The new report says the findings are “remarkably consistent” with other publicly released polls on legalization, pointing to two other recent surveys, by Fallon Research in August and Suffolk University in July, which also showed 59 percent support for the policy change.
Public sentiment has also generally held steady over time, with 57 percent support in 2019, 61 percent support in 2020 and 63 percent support in 2022, the report says.
Differences in support are starkest along party lines, the new poll found. Among Democrats, 76 percent of voters said they were definitely or probably yes votes, compared to 47 percent of independents and 42 percent of Republicans.
Similarly, 80 percent of people who identified as liberal said they’ll definitely or probably vote yes, compared to 55 percent of moderates and 38 percent of conservatives.
Within the Republican bloc, more moderate and liberal GOP voters tend to support the measure, with 54 percent of those definitely or probably in support. Of conservative Republicans, only 38 percent definitely or probably favored the reform.
“Our supporters come from all backgrounds: Democrats, Republicans, veterans, patients, mothers and fathers,” campaign spokesperson Tom Haren said in a statement released with the survey. “They know that our plan to regulate and tax adult-use marijuana is good for Ohio and good for Ohioans. This poll shows that when it comes to marijuana, Ohio voters’ opinion is clear. I feel confident we’ll see that in the election results.”
In addition to legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana, Issue 2 would establish a 10 percent cannabis sales tax, with revenue going toward social equity and jobs programs as well as education and treatment around substance use disorders.
Late last month, state officials approved ballot language for Issue 2 and have since published campaign arguments in favor and against.
A state-approved summary notes that the initiative would establish a social equity program, protect the identities of people who participate in the adult-use market, maintain employers’ and landlords’ rights to prohibit cannabis use “in certain circumstances,” protect financial institutions that work with licensed marijuana businesses and impose a tax on cannabis sales.
If approved, legalization could bring in $404 million in annual tax revenue for the state, according to an analysis by researchers at Ohio State University.
One of the state’s congressional representatives, Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D), said last week that he’s still undecided on the measure. “But I will—in the next couple, three weeks—really sit down and read it and figure out what to do” when it comes time to vote on the marijuana ballot initiative, he said.
Brown’s noncommittal response came in contrast to that of a Republican congressman who represents Ohio’s 14th district. Rep. Dave Joyce (R), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has affirmed that he will be voting “yes” on Issue 2, and he’s encouraged “all Ohio voters to participate and make their voices heard on this important issue.”
Here are the key provisions of the legalization ballot measure on the November’s ballot:
- The initiative would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older, and they could also have up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates.
- Individuals could grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum 12 plants per household.
- A 10 percent sales tax would be imposed on cannabis sales, with revenue being divided up to support social equity and jobs programs (36 percent), localities that allow adult-use marijuana enterprises to operate in their area (36 percent), education and substance misuse programs (25 percent) and administrative costs of implementing the system (three percent).
- A Division of Cannabis Control would be established under the state Department of Commerce. It would have authority to “license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed.”
- The measure gives current medical cannabis businesses a head start in the recreational market. Regulators would need to begin issuing adult-use licenses to qualified applicants who operate existing medical operations within nine months of enactment.
- The division would also be required to issue 40 recreational cultivator licenses and 50 adult-use retailer licenses “with a preference to applications who are participants under the cannabis social equity and jobs program.” And it would authorize regulators to issue additional licenses for the recreational market two years after the first operator is approved.
- Individual municipalities would be able to opt out of allowing new recreational cannabis companies from opening in their area, but they could not block existing medical marijuana firms even if they want to add co-located adult-use operations. Employers could also maintain policies prohibiting workers from consuming cannabis for adult use.
- Further, regulators would be required to “enter into an agreement with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services” to provide “cannabis addiction services,” which would involve “education and treatment for individuals with addiction issues related to cannabis or other controlled substances including opioids.”
- With respect to social equity, some advocates are concerned about the lack of specific language on automatic expungements to clear the records of people with convictions for offenses that would be made legal under the legislation. That said, the measure does include a provision requiring regulators to “study and fund” criminal justice reform initiatives including expungements.
Among the measure’s opponents, the Ohio Association of Health Commissioners, which represents Ohio’s 112 local health departments, recently became one of the latest groups to come out against the initiative. The Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and Adolescent Health Association, as well as law enforcement and some business groups, are also urging voters to oppose the reform.
A study published last month found that only about 1 in 10 Ohio prosecutors are likely to take advantage of a separate recently enacted law that allows them to independently seal the records of people with low-level drug convictions—and most of those say they’d focus on cannabis-related offenses—according to a new study.
Ohio voters rejected a 2015 measure, on a 64–36 vote, that would have amended the state’s constitution to legalize marijuana and give control of the market to a small group of producers. Organizers for the current campaign said they drew on lessons learned from that failure in crafting the current initiative.
Read the full FM3 Research survey report below: