Ohio’s landmark Issue 2 ballot measure, which is due to make Ohio the 24th US state to legalise recreational cannabis, is being ‘gutted of its most important provisions’ by its opponents.
On Monday, Ohio Senate Republicans proposed sweeping changes to the bill just days ahead of its proposed passage into law this Thursday, which could fundamentally alter its scope.
These new amendments to citizen-initiated statute have now been given the initial approval by an Ohio Senate committee, which says its goal is to ‘provide the people’s wishes with safe product’.
However, as Associated Press reports, these changes will ‘gut’ the bill of a number of key components, included the right for Ohioans to grow up to six cannabis plants at home.
State Sen. Bill DeMora, a Columbus Democrat, said of the changes: “The voters’ intent is nowhere to be found in what I call a shell of what the voters passed.”
The changes are by no means secured yet though, as they still need to clear the Senate floor, and then the Republican-majority House which leans more in favour of adult-use legalisation than the Senate.
Other proposed changes include:
- Tax Increase: The approved tax on marijuana products would be raised from 10% to 15%, and cultivators would also be taxed at the same rate.
- Allocation of Tax Revenue: Instead of directing tax revenue to local governments hosting dispensaries and a social equity program, the revised legislation allocates tax revenue to general state funding, law enforcement training, substance abuse treatment and prevention, and safe driving training. The aim is to prevent most of the tax revenue from solely benefiting the cannabis industry.
- Possession Limits: The amount of recreational marijuana a person can legally possess at a time would be reduced.
- THC Level Reduction: Legal THC levels for marijuana plants would be lowered from the original 90% to 50%, and for extracts, from the original 35% to 25%.
- Child Safety Measures: Efforts to protect children from marijuana exposure include selling products in child-safe packaging, prohibiting products resembling animals, fruit, or fictional characters appealing to children, and banning advertising featuring media or pop culture figures targeting children. Dispensaries would need to be at least 500 feet away from schools, churches, public libraries, or public parks.
- Public Consumption Rules: Non-smoking products like edibles could be consumed publicly unless prohibited by a private establishment. Smoking or vaping marijuana in public spaces would be banned, except within an individual’s home. Landlords could still prohibit smoking by tenants.
- Employer Authority: Employers would have the authority to set their own rules for employee cannabis use and testing, with the ability to terminate employees for use without violating discrimination laws.