In the push for better marijuana laws, advocates have successfully ensured that seven more Ohio cities can decriminalize marijuana through ballots slated for November.
Efforts by the Sensible Movement Coalition and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will provide residents in the municipals of Kent, Helena, Laurelville, Rushville, Shawnee, Corning, and Hemlock to stop the enforcement of the state laws on misdemeanor marijuana possession. However, the results of the local ballots will only take effect within the jurisdiction of these municipalities.
Following failed attempts to legalize marijuana state-wide, advocates are now gunning for municipal reforms. The Ohio laws allow residents of its municipalities to make legislation for themselves. Many Ohio cities have taken advantage of this to decriminalize or eliminate low-level marijuana offenses. The city of Toledo was the first in Ohio to vote on marijuana reform in 2015. Residents of the municipality voted 70%-30% in favor of decriminalizing misdemeanor marijuana offenses, including possessing fewer than 200 grams of cannabis.
Since 2015, up to 29 cities in Ohio have successfully eliminated penalties associated with misdemeanor marijuana offenses or decriminalized such offenses. Decriminalization also enforces lesser penalties on persons that violate the new policies.
With seven more cities confirmed to vote on marijuana depenalization in their respective municipalities, advocates are confident that Ohio is closer to accepting the use of cannabis throughout the state. However, not all attempts to decriminalize marijuana through municipal reforms have been successful. Residents of the municipalities of Morristown, Brookside, Dillonvale, McArthur, Laurelville, Mount Pleasant, and Powhatan Point voted against such reforms in 2021.
Marijuana advocates in Ohio have also made recent efforts to legalize marijuana generally, besides the municipal reforms. An attempt to legalize adult use of marijuana was defeated at the polls in 2015. In January 2022, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted over 130,000 valid signatures to prompt lawmakers to take action on the legalization proposal. The petition proposed a measure that will lawfully allow the possession of up to 2.5 grams of cannabis for residents aged 21 or older. Such persons would also be able to cultivate a maximum of six marijuana plants individually and up to 12 plants per household. However, the legislature did not grant the petition. In the aftermath, petitioners needed to gather more signatures for a ballot measure in November.
The campaign group decided to negotiate with the state legislature and has opted to move their marijuana legalization efforts to 2023. The settlement guarantees the validity of the signatures submitted earlier for the petition, which saves the time of redoing the signature gathering. As it stands, Ohio lawmakers will have until April 2023 to consider the petition again. If not, the group may decide to collect the required number of signatures to have a ballot measure for November 2023.
As seven more Ohio cities are due to vote on cannabis decriminalization, advocates can look forward to more Ohio municipalities relaxing marijuana laws within their jurisdictions.