House Republicans propose legalizing marijuana for 21+ recreational use
Two Ohio House Republicans on Tuesday proposed legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Ohio.
In legislation that has not yet been formally introduced, Reps. Jamie Callender and Ron Ferguson pitched a program that would allow Ohioans 21 and older to purchase marijuana from licensed distributors or grow up to six plants in their home.
“Adults should be able to make decisions for themselves,” Ferguson said. “That’s what this bill is about.”
The sponsors acknowledged the bill’s trajectory would be somewhat dicey: They said the House Speaker is hesitant on the issue; the governor and Senate President have expressed more explicit opposition.
“[The Speaker] is generally unfavorable to recreational use,” Callender said. “However, he does read the tea leaves, and he is giving us a chance to prove that this is a reasonable option.”
A Cupp spokesman didn’t respond to inquiries. Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, told the USA TODAY Network Ohio this summer that he opposes marijuana legalization.
Callender said there would be an expungement process outlined in the bill for people who have previously been convicted of certain crimes related to marijuana. He didn’t immediately offer specifics.
Outside organizers, in an industry-backed effort, are seeking to force the Legislature’s hand. In August, they received the green light from state officials to begin collecting the 133,000 signatures required to force lawmakers to consider the issue. Should lawmakers decline to do so, the issue would then be placed on the ballot for voters to directly weigh in.
Callender said his proposal could be a means to get ahead of the ballot referendum and give lawmakers more control over the final outcome, though he acknowledged the principal ideas in both are similar.
Research from Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center within its law school estimated that Ohio could drive $625 million in revenue from recreational marijuana sales, assuming the state taxes and its residents consume marijuana at even levels as Colorado.
House Democrats have proposed a marijuana program as well, though the legislation has yet to receive any committee attention.
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