Adults can now legally own and grow marijuana in Ohio, but there’s nowhere to buy it

Marijuana plants for the adult recreational market are seen in a greenhouse at Hepworth Farms in Milton, New York, U.S., July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohioans woke up Thursday to a land of recreational marijuana, where adults can legally grow and possess cannabis at home but cannot legally buy it.

That combination of factors related to a citizen-initiated statue approved by voters in November “is a recipe for disaster,” Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday night. He pushed for a compromise bill setting the parameters for implementing Question 2. The 11th-hour deal made it through the Ohio Senate on the eve of the new law’s effective date, but not through the Ohio House of Representatives, which – insisting that there is no rush – chose to postpone.

DeWine predicts black market sales will flourish in the state, making fentanyl- or pesticide-laced marijuana products more available and endangering Ohioans, including children, who could be exposed to secondhand smoke during the festivities this holiday season. season.

One regulator joked that growing marijuana without the ability to legally purchase it should require an “immaculate conception.”

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Republican state Rep. Jamie Callender, sponsor of the separate House implementation bill, told the House Finance Committee on Wednesday that DeWine and GOP Senate President Matt Huffman are wrong and that there is “no end date” to enacting the law. Ohio Sales Scheme . He said home cultivation and possession can still go on without incident.

Callender said he wants to “make sure we’re careful, that we’ve had enough time to look at it and deal with the things that don’t go into effect right away that we can work on,” and that the wishes of voters are respected .

House Republican Speaker Jason Stevens did not speak to reporters Wednesday. But the House’s No. 3 Republican, state Rep. Bill Seitz, defended the House’s decision to adjourn without acting on the 160-page compromise, which was attached to an existing House bill that returns to the lower chamber next week.

“We will not pass, invisible, such a monstrous proposal in 48 hours. It’s crazy,” Seitz said. Lawmakers need enough time to work out the complexities of creating Ohio’s adult cannabis sales, taxation and regulatory structure, he said.

State lawmakers actually had four months last year to act. As a citizen-initiated statute, Issue 2 had to be presented to them before the statewide vote. After the GOP-controlled Legislature chose to do nothing, the measure was put on the Nov. 7 ballot and passed with 57 percent of the vote.

As passed, it allows adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants per person or 12 plants per household at home. It gave the state nine months to create a legal marijuana purchase system subject to a 10 percent tax, with revenue to be split between administrative costs, addiction treatment, dispensary municipalities and social justice programs and jobs that support itself cannabis industry.

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With just days to go before the law goes into effect, Senate Republicans have proposed a sweeping rewrite of what voters approved, angering supporters of the issue and alarming both parties in the House. The first bill would have banned home cultivation entirely, lowered the possession limit to 1 ounce, raised the tax rate on pot purchases to 15 percent, eliminated tax breaks for social capital programs that support the marijuana industry itself, and targeted most money to a general state government fund.

Under the compromise negotiated with DeWine and approved 28-2 by the Senate on Wednesday, the number of marijuana plants allowed for a household was reduced to six, the higher tax rate of 15 percent on purchases was maintained and THC levels for cannabis extracts were reduced from the 90 percent allowed under Issue 2 to 50 percent. The deal reinstated the 2.5-ounce possession limit but kept the 35 percent THC level for plants and repealed, allowing Ohio state government to control most of the marijuana tax revenue.

In a move that won Democratic support for the measure, the compromise bill adds a provision not included in Issue 2 that calls for the expungement of the criminal record of anyone convicted of possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. It also adds protections for children, such as requiring child-safe packaging on legal marijuana products and banning ads aimed at children — a priority for the governor.

Ohio has never before made such significant changes to an initiated statute, according to Steven Steinglass, dean emeritus of Cleveland State University’s College of Law and a leading expert on the Ohio constitution.

“Understand, this has never happened in Ohio because voters have approved only three initiated statutes in 111 years, and none of those three have been amended, repealed or tampered with by the General Assembly,” he said.

If lawmakers stray too far from the voter-approved statute, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the Campaign for Question 2 or some other group could always hold a referendum.

“Because petitioners have some important constitutionally permitted tools they can use, this should give legislators an incentive to sit down with petitioners to reach a compromise on changes that legislators feel are necessary and that petitioners believe do not violate their legislation intent,” Steinglass said.

Huffman said the compromise legislation is respectful of voters while addressing important issues.

“I’m against (legalization), but it’s a law,” the Senate president said. “We don’t want illegal sales — the black market, if you will — to take hold.”

Meanwhile, there are many aspects of Ohio’s new law that can be implemented immediately, said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio District Attorneys Association.

“Starting Thursday, it will be very difficult to find probable cause and prosecute people who carry less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, but prosecutors and law enforcement will still be on the lookout,” Tobin said. “People smoking in cars are still breaking the law, people carrying more than 2.5 ounces are still breaking the law, people doing private sales are still breaking the law, people driving under the influence, still breaking the law.”

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