With just over a week until Ohio’s voter-approved marijuana legalization law takes effect, a Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow individual municipalities to locally ban the use and home cultivation of cannabis in their jurisdictions. The legislation would also revise how state marijuana tax revenue would be distributed by, for example, reducing funds allocated to social equity and jobs programs and instead steering them toward law enforcement training.
The measure from Rep. Gary Click (R), filed on Tuesday, appears to be separate from a forthcoming proposal that GOP leadership and the governor have been discussing to similarly amend the cannabis law that passed at the ballot this month.
While the voter-approved Issue 2 explicitly prohibited localities from barring marijuana use, home cultivation or scientific research from their jurisdictions—or imposing additional local taxes on cannabis products—Click’s bill would strike those key provisions, creating the potential for a patchwork of policies across the state.
Issue 2 already permits municipalities to opt out of allowing new recreational cannabis companies from opening in their area, though they can’t block existing medical marijuana firms even if they want to add co-located adult-use operations.
Additionally, Click’s measure would change how the state would need to appropriate cannabis tax revenue by adding two new funds: one for substance misuse and recovery services and another for law enforcement training.
It would maintain buckets of funds—with reduced percentages of revenue—for social equity and jobs programs, local governments that play host to cannabis businesses and education initiatives. But each of the five total funds would receive about 19 percent of the revenue each, whereas the social equity and municipality funds are currently set to receive 36 percent each, for example.
Like several other Ohio GOP lawmakers, Click told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s of the mind that voters didn’t fully grasp or agree to the specific provisions outlined in the legalization initiative that they approved with 57 percent of the vote. He said his proposal is meant to be a “discussion starter rather than the binary choice that was on the ballot.”
“It starts the conversation. Obviously, people want recreational marijuana. But they didn’t get to dialogue in details,” he said. “This is the opportunity for citizens to express their voices in the committee process. I am open to amendments that reflect the will of the people.”
While the proposed changes to the tax structure wouldn’t come into play until later next year given the time it will take to begin licensing cannabis businesses, the potential local ban on sanctioned cannabis activity like home cultivation could have more immediate impacts if approved. Adults 21 and older will be able to start possessing and growing marijuana for personal use beginning on December 7.
Again, this legislation seems distinct from the yet-to-be-filed marijuana amendment package that GOP Senate and House leaders have discussed introducing imminently. That said, the planned measure they’ve previewed has similarly focused on potential changes affecting tax revenue distribution, public consumption and law enforcement, for example.
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R) said earlier this month that he didn’t think most voters considered the nuances of the cannabis reform proposal when they went to the ballot and instead simply passed it based on the broad belief that marijuana should be legal for adults. He argued, for example, that the majority probably doesn’t support prioritizing cannabis business licensing for people who’ve been disproportionately targeted by criminalization.
Gov. Mike DeWine (R) made similar remarks after this month’s election, as he expressed his interest in quickly changing various components of the law. However, he’s stressed that voters shouldn’t expect any “surprises,” and the proposed revisions that are being discussed would still honor the “spirit” of the reform.
Rather than introduce new standalone legislation through regular order, the Senate president said the plan is to incorporate cannabis amendments into an unrelated House-passed bill and use that as the vehicle, sending the revised measure back to the House for a simple concurrence vote.
While Huffman and the governor have made it clear that they want to see revisions enacted expeditiously, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R) says he doesn’t necessarily see the urgency given that most of the changes that are being discussed aren’t set to be implemented until later next year.
Some Democrats have separately discussed potential amendments that they’d like to see incorporated, including allocating some revenue to K-12 public education. There also appears to be bipartisan interest in providing some funding for mental health services to support first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).
Rep. Juanita Brent (D), for her part, recently emphasized that people who’ve been criminalized over marijuana, as well as those with industry experience, should be involved in any efforts to amend the state’s voter-approved legalization law, arguing that it shouldn’t be left up to “anti-cannabis” legislators alone to revise the statute.
The Ohio Department of Commerce was quick to publish an FAQ guide for residents to learn about the new law and timeline for implementation, though regulators repeatedly noted that the policies may be subject to change depending on how the legislature acts.
Prohibitionist organizations that campaigned against Issue 2, meanwhile, are set on a fundamental undermining of the newly approved law, with some describing plans to pressure the legislature to entirely repeal legalization before it’s even implemented.
For what it’s worth, a number of Ohio lawmakers said in September that they doubted the legislature would seek to repeal a voter-passed legalization law. The Senate president affirmed repeal wasn’t part of the agenda, at least not in the next year.
Voters were only able to decide on the issue after lawmakers declined to take the opportunity to pass their own reform as part of the ballot qualification process. They were given months to enact legalization that they could have molded to address their outstanding concerns, but the legislature ultimately deferred to voters by default.
As early voting kicked off late last month, the GOP-controlled Senate passed a resolution urging residents to reject measure.
Unlike the top state Republican lawmakers, one of the state’s GOP representatives in Congress—Rep. Dave Joyce, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in September that he would be voting in favor of the initiative in November. He encouraged “all Ohio voters to participate and make their voices heard on this important issue.”
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said late last month he voted in favor of the legalization ballot initiative, calling it a “hard decision” but one that was based on his belief that the reform would promote “safety” for consumers.
Meanwhile, Vivek Ramaswamy, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, said he voted against a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Ohio because he’s concerned the federal government could “weaponize” criminalization against people who are engaged in state-legal cannabis activities under the “fake” pretense that they’re protected from federal prosecution.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), for his part, said recently that Ohio’s vote to legalize marijuana at the ballot is one of the latest examples of how Americans are rejecting “MAGA extremism,” and he added that he’s committed to continuing to work on a bipartisan basis “to keep moving on bipartisan cannabis legislation as soon as we can.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that “the vote in Ohio was a great big exclamation point on the things we’ve been talking about.”
“We’ve been saying for years how this issue has crested, how it’s got broad momentum, how it is inclusive. It’s sort of like the success with the [Ohio abortion rights] issue—except this was more pronounced,” he said. “We got more votes than the abortion issue. We get more votes than anybody on the ballot.”
The White House has separately said that “nothing has changed” with President Joe Biden’s stance on marijuana, declining to say if he supports Ohio’s vote to legalize or whether he backs further reform of federal cannabis laws.
Meanwhile, as Ohio voters approved statewide legalization, activists also chalked up a series of little-noticed wins to decriminalize larger amounts of cannabis in three Ohio cities, according to preliminary county election results.