The Ohio Senate has passed a bill to change the laws governing marijuana legalization in the state, just as those laws are starting to go into effect.
Recreational marijuana became legal in Ohio on Thursday. But some questions remain about what legal marijuana will look like in the state in the long term.
The Ohio Senate passed House Bill 86 on December 6. The bill makes a number of changes to the state’s newly implemented Cannabis Control Law governing recreational marijuana.
Among other changes to Issue 2, House Bill 86 would limit marijuana use to private residences. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said last week that limits like these are necessary to protect the public from exposure to cannabis. “Without the passage of this bill, our children may be exposed to marijuana smoke in any public place,” DeWine said. “For example, while waiting in line to see the nutcracker at Playhouse Square in Cleveland next week.”
HB 86 would also increase excise tax on cannabis from 10 percent to 15 percent. The bill would also overhaul how tax revenues from recreational marijuana sales are used.
The current law put in place by the passage of Ohio Issue 2 in the November general election put 36 percent of funds toward the newly implemented Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Program, a program that would help people from communities hurt by marijuana laws get into the legal industry. House Bill 86 would eliminate that program and put over half of all tax revenue toward jail construction and law enforcement.
Marietta College political science professor Dr. Mitchel Krumm said it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the legislature is moving toward changing Issue 2. “A number of folks in the state legislature said they were going to try to change this bill before the voters voted on it,” Krumm said. “I’m surprised that it took them as long to do it. That they kind of waited until the law was literally about to go into effect to change it.”
Some of the changes introduce stronger restrictions on marijuana, including limiting home grown plants to six per household as compared to 12 under the current law and prohibiting adults from transferring marijuana to one another without being licensed as marijuana operators.
Krumm said these changes reflect some lawmakers’ desires for harsher restrictions than those supported by voters who supported Issue 2 at the ballot box. “I do think the changes that they’re making definitely want to maintain a number of restrictions on the use and cultivation and possession of marijuana, so it definitely still has some tinge of war on drugs for sure,” Krumm said.
The bill will have to pass the Ohio House of Representatives before it can become law.