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Legalizing recreational marijuana may be back before Ohio voters

Advocates for full legalization of marijuana cleared a major hurdle Thursday when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the petition wording for a statewide vote on the matter.

The proposed constitutional amendment still needs approval from the Ohio Ballot Board before advocates can begin collecting the required valid voter signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot.

Organizers are aiming for the 2019 ballot.

The amendment calls for allowing adults age 21 and older to possess, grow, use, transport, sell, share and purchase marijuana.

The Ohio General Assembly would have authority to write laws governing impairment, uses in public and restrictions for minors. It also calls for protections for landlords and employers who want to prohibit marijuana activities on their property.

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In November 2015, Ohio voters soundly rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use.

Related: Buddie, limiting grow sites mistakes in pot campaign, leader says

In June 2016, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law a plan to legalize and regulate medical marijuana. State officials are writing regulations, reviewing applications and inspecting operations for the new industry, which is expected to kick off Sept. 8.

Related: Sept. 8 deadline to start medical marijuana program still on

Among the next steps are licensing labs and up to 57 dispensaries, establishing a toll-free hotline, opening the patient registry and issuing operations permits to growers.

This week, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Fyre is holding a hearing on a request by Ohio Releaf — which did not win a grower license and is awaiting its appeal to be heard — to put on hold the cultivator operations permits.

Thomas Rosenberger, director of the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio, said industry players and patients say pausing the grower licenses would have an “overhelmingly negative impact.”

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