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Ohio Senate U-Turns on Key Changes to Cannabis Bill as Issue 2 Comes Into Force

On Thursday (December 07), adult-use cannabis officially became legal in the state of Ohio, making it the 24th state to enact such legislation.

Ohio residents over 21 will now be able to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home.

Despite this significant step forward, the state’s Republican lawmakers are continuing efforts to roll back many of the bill’s key components, though now at a less drastic level.

As Business of Cannabis reported earlier this week, the state’s Republican dominated Senate initially approved sweeping amendments to ‘Issue 2’ which its supporters say aimed to ‘gut’ the legislation, which was approved with 57% of the vote last month, of many of its core elements.

On Monday, the Senate gave initial approval to an amendment which would have removed citizens’ right to home cultivation, increased the cannabis sales taxes by 5%, diverted these revenues away from social equity programmes, and reduced THC limits and legal possession caps.

In a ‘surprise’ last minute turnaround on Wednesday, just hours before Issue 2 came into effect, the Senate passed an amended bill nearly unanimously, which watered down many of the initially proposed amendments.

House Bill 86 will retain the right for citizens to cultivate their own cannabis at home, though it will reduce the number from 12 to six.

Crucially, it would also allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries to begin selling adult-use cannabis ‘within 90 days’, down significantly from the nine months originally stipulated in Issue 2, which lawmakers hope will allow a smoother transition.

There was also the unexpected addition of automatic expungement for certain cannabis convictions, a feature that was also not included in the original Issue 2 bill.

While these changes were largely welcomed, a HB 86 would still look to raise the cannabis excise tax from 10% to 15%, though this will no longer apply to cultivators.

Furthermore, revenue from these taxes will still be diverted towards law enforcement and away from originally proposed social equity schemes, while the THC cap on cannabis extracts will be reduced from 90% to 50%.

The newly amended bill will now have to be voted on by the House of Representatives before being brought into law.

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