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Recreational marijuana closer to Ohio ballot — but lots of work ahead

Legalized recreational marijuana is one small step closer to appearing on Ohio ballots in 2019.

The Ohio Ballot Board certified a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office. The amendment was previously certified earlier this month by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Ohio Families for Change is behind the effort to bring the matter to Ohio’s 2019 ballot.

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The group now faces the large task of collecting 305,591 valid signatures — equal to 10 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election in 2014. Signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties must be collected, and within each county the group must collect enough signatures equal to five percent of the vote total cast for governor.

The group’s proposal:

• Would allow Ohioans older than 21 to possess, grow, use, sell and share marijuana;

• Would not change the already approved medical marijuana program starting this year;

• Has a residency requirement for business licences;

• Calls for protections for landlords and employers who want to prohibit marijuana activities on their property.

The Ohio General Assembly would have authority to write laws governing impairment, uses in public and restrictions for minors.

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Getting on the statewide ballot is a heavy lift, requiring organizational skills and millions of dollars. Eight petitions to legalize marijuana have been certified over the past five years but only one — ResponsibleOhio’s November 2015 effort — made it to the ballot. That year, Ohio voters soundly rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use.

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.

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