Ohio doubles up to legalize marijuana

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There are now two separate efforts to legalize marijuana in Ohio.

On Friday, two Democratic lawmakers in the Ohio House introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. House Bill 382 would allow Ohioans to purchase and use marijuana and cultivate up to 12 plants.

The bill hasn’t been assigned to a committee yet. The measure’s main authors are state Reps. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, and Terrence Upchurch, D-Cleveland. The bill already has 10 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

The measure would levy a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales, with money going to public schools along with road and bridge construction. In addition, up to $20 million would be used for clinical trials to see if marijuana can be used to treat veterans and prevent veteran suicides, according to a news release issued by Weinstein and Upchurch.

Also last week, an initiative petition, “An Act to Regulate and Control Adult Use Cannabis,” and the signatures of 1,000 Ohio voters backing it was submitted to the attorney general’s office.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has until Thursday to certify that the summary of the proposed law is fair and truthful. If Yost gives the OK, that will launch an effort to obtain about 133,000 valid signatures from Ohio voters, said Thomas Haren, a Cleveland attorney who is helping to lead the effort.

Haren explained that his petition is an initiated statute effort rather than a proposed constitutional amendment. It’s an attempt to get marijuana legalization enacted into law.

He said that if enough signatures are approved as valid, the Ohio General Assembly would have four months to enact the proposal into law.

If lawmakers don’t approve it, backers have the option of obtaining about 133,000 signatures again and putting the measure on the ballot for Ohio voters to decide, Haren said.

Haren said it may not come to that.

“We’re confident the general assembly is going to pass the bill,” he said. “We think this is what Ohioans want.”

The measure also allows lawmakers to keep control of the process, having a hand in a legalization program that likely will happen sooner or later in Ohio, Haren said.

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t think marijuana legalization is not an inevitability,” Haren said.

While Haren’s measure is similar in many respects to HB 382 — it would legalize sale and possession for adults, tax the sales to raise money for the government and allow users to raise a few plants at home — the proposal also has a social equity component, Haren said.

He said 36% of the money raised by taxing marijuana would go into a cannabis social equity and jobs fund, helping communities hurt by the war on drugs. The program to issue licenses to marijuana stores also would focus on inclusion and diversity, Haren said.

Haren said that, under his proposal, licenses to sell recreational marijuana would go initially to medical marijuana stores, allowing sales to begin within a year.

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