What we know now about efforts to put marijuana back on the ballot

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Kettering Assistant City Manager Steven Bergstresser discusses why city staff recommended council ban medical marijuana businesses in the city.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ohio voters may get another chance to vote to legalize recreational marijuana next year.

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.

Ohio Families for Change, the group backing the effort, plans to hit the November 2019 ballot, said spokesman Jonathan Varner.

The 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;

* Would have a residency requirement for business licences;

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

Varner said the issue would eliminate the black market, allow equal opportunity for anyone to start a marijuana business, keep the drug away from minors and give local government controls through zoning and regulations.

Another group led by Ian James plans to put another marijuana legalization issue on the November 2020 ballot. James said the Fair Market Amendment will likely start circulating petitions later this year and file signatures by July 2019.

James was a major player in the November 2015 legalization issue that voters rejected.

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

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.

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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