Ohio voters in five cities approved local marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives on Tuesday.
Activists in the state have been working to enact local cannabis reform over recent election cycles, with most efforts proving successful. While decriminalization didn’t qualify for every municipal ballot that advocates targeted for 2022, a half dozen got the chance to make a policy change.
The Sensible Movement Coalition and NORML Appalachia of Ohio have been at the helm of the local movement for the better part of the last decade.
“The results of yesterday’s general election show beyond a reasonable doubt that the people of Ohio are ready for a change in cannabis laws, even at the local level,” NORML’s Don Keeney told Marijuana Moment. “From the city of Kent to the small villages of Southeast Ohio, they want this! These are sold red areas with elected officials that say their people don’t support this. Yesterday’s vote shows something different.”
Local officials certified petitions for some of those jurisdictions before summer, with others being finalized more recently.
Activists said that they met the requirements to qualify an additional decriminalization measure in Helena, but officials declined to officially certify it and it is now subject to litigation in court.
Voters in seven other cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana possession during last November’s election, building on a slew of previous local reforms in the state.
Prior to that election, more than 20 jurisdictions across the state had already adopted local statues effectively decriminalizing possession—some of which have been passed by voter initiatives while others were adopted by city councils in major cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.
Meanwhile, activists are positioned to bring statewide adult-use legalization to a vote at the ballot next year.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) submitted signatures to put legalization on this year’s state ballot, but a court ruled in May that they would not qualify because of timing problems. However, as part of a legal settlement, the court did clear activists to take the reform back up in 2023 without having to collect a new initial batch of signatures to prompt a legislative review again.
A pair of Ohio Democratic lawmakers separately filed a bill to legalize marijuana in April that directly mirrors the proposed initiative that activists are pursuing, but it is not expected to advance in the legislature.
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A GOP legislator who sponsored a different bill to tax and regulate cannabis has tempered expectations about the chances for legislative reform, signaling that the issue will likely have to be decided by voters.
Activists suspended a subsequent campaign to place a legalization measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent poll found that a slim majority of Ohio voters would support marijuana legalization at the ballot.
As of September, Ohio medical marijuana sales officially surpassed the $1 billion mark since dispensaries started serving patients in April 2019, state data shows.
Meanwhile, voters in several states decided on statewide marijuana legalization ballot initiatives on Tuesday.