Inaction on Marijuana bill could create challenges meeting fall deadline passed by voters

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Inaction on Marijuana bill could create challenges meeting fall deadline passed by voters

Recreational marijuana is legal in Ohio but there’s still nowhere to buy it legally.

“It’s really being held up in the house,” said Senate Minority Leader, Nickie Antonio. “[It] is really a disservice to the people of Ohio.”

September is the soonest people will be able to buy recreational marijuana at dispensaries in Ohio, but that's only if everything goes right, and right now, it’s not looking too good in the statehouse.

The senate passed a bill in December, making its changes to Issue 2, but the house still hasn't brought that bill to the floor or moved its own bill.

Sen. Antonio is echoing the governor’s concern about a growing black market.

“Every day that goes by where we don’t have the ability for folks to either go to the medical dispensaries to legally purchase, we also open ourselves up for an illegal market,” said Sen. Antonio. “All that time that passes without having these pathways to legal purchase, without having expungements, and that means people who could have this on their record that aren't able to get jobs, not able to change things in their lives because of having this record.”

James Canepa, the man tasked with creating rules for the state's adult use cannabis program, said inaction from lawmakers could create challenges particularly in meeting the deadlines Ohio voters passed last year.

“To test it, to process it, to sell it, to grow it, you need a permit. And there are steps that need to happen. One of the big steps is this rule making process,” said Canepa. “The division doesn’t have unilateral authority to decide whatever the rules are going to be.”

He said his team knows what the senate wants, but there’s no action from the house.

“If there’s a challenge, it’s moving down the road crystallizing with a lot of input and a lot of resources and a lot of people’s time. Then somebody deciding that they want to participate in refining it,” Canepa said.

The Division of Cannabis Control must have applications available for existing labs, cultivators, and dispensaries, by June 7. It also must start issuing licenses by Sept. 7.

Canepa said that's the soonest people will be able to get their hands on recreational marijuana.

“That’s assuming a lot of things," said Canepa.

A lot will need to fall in place to make that happen. He says a big risk that could stall everything is a lawsuit. Earlier this month House Speaker Jason Stephens told reporters in Columbus this is a “complex issue.”

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Region: Ohio

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