Lawmakers have yet to bring changes to Ohio’s new marijuana law over the finish line.
The Ohio Senate passed a bill in December with major changes to the marijuana law, but the Ohio House, once again, did not bring that bill to the floor to concur during Wednesday’s session and has not moved its own bill.
“It’s a complex issue,” Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, told reporters Tuesday.
Marijuana has been legal in Ohio since December, following the passage of Issue 2 in November. Legislators in both houses have proposed changes to the present law.
Issue 2 was a citizen initiative, which allows Ohio lawmakers to propose and enact changes to the new legislation after the election.
Although marijuana cannot be legally purchased in Ohio, residents can grow up to six plants per person and 12 plants per residence.
Issue 2 established the Division of Cannabis Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce. The Division aims to complete rulemaking for non-medical cannabis licencing applications by June 7 and issue provisional licences for facilities by September 7, according to Jamie Crawford, PIO of the Ohio Department of Commerce, in an email.
Recreational marijuana cannot be sold until licences are issued and facilities are certified.
Issue 2 establishes five state treasury funds: the adult use tax fund, the cannabis social equality and jobs fund, the host community cannabis fund, the substance abuse and addiction fund, and the division of cannabis control and tax commissioner fund.
“Issue 2 establishes a thorough regulatory framework… Tom Haren, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, stated that there is no need for legislative action.
Stephens identified two key challenges with the marijuana law: establishing a company framework for dispensaries and determining tax income.
“That’s where we are in our discussions, and our priority right now is having those thorough discussions, as there was a long runway for this issue, so we still have some time to do that,” Stephens said in a statement.
State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, proposed revisions to the state’s marijuana law, which were ultimately incorporated into House Bill 86, despite the fact that the bill did not originally address marijuana. State Representative Jeff LaRe, R-Violet Twp., introduced HB 86, which would amend the state’s liquor control legislation.
Under HB 86, the marijuana tax rate would rise to 15%, up from Issue 2’s 10% tax at the point of sale for each transaction. The bill also allows local governments and counties to levy a tax on top of the 3% marijuana excise tax.A higher tax rate results in greater prices for customers.
What is now? HB 86 would limit home cultivation to six plants per household and provide automatic expungement for individuals in possession of 2.5 ounces or less.
Once HB 86 went into force, Ohioans 21 and older could purchase recreational items from dispensaries.
If HB 86 passes the House, it will take effect 90 days after Governor Mike DeWine signs it. DeWine asked lawmakers in December to adopt HB 86 so that he could sign it into law, claiming that it would eliminate the illegal market.
House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, expects the Ohio House to address marijuana legislation when it starts in April.
“I think that everyone agrees that there are certain aspects of this legislation that weren’t adequately addressed in Issue 2, and we’ve talked about many different components,” she told reporters.”I think there’s a lot of agreement on some things, and then there are still many discussions that need to be had about other aspects.”
The next House session is slated for April 10, so even if the law is passed, it will not take effect until July.
“It’s been unfortunate to see some members of the General Assembly so quickly try to subvert the will of the voters through House Bill 86, for instance,” he remarked. “But I’m encouraged that the House is obviously taking a much more deliberate approach.”
According to HB 86, the revenue monies will be disbursed as follows:
- 28 percent to the county jail construction fund.
- 19% of the Department of Public Safety’s law enforcement training budget, or 16% if the marijuana expungement fund no longer exists.
- 14 percent to the Attorney General’s law enforcement training fund.
- Contribute 11% to the substance addiction, treatment, and prevention fund, or 9% if the marijuana expungement fund no longer exists.
- 9% to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Fund.
- 5% of marijuana receipts go to the drug law enforcement fund.
- Contribute 5% to the marijuana expungement fund.
- 5% for the safe driving training fund.
- 4% to the Ohio Investigative Unit Operations Fund.
- 3% goes to the Division of Marijuana Control Operations Fund.
- 2% for the marijuana toxicity control fund.
In December, State Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) presented House Bill 354, which clarifies parts of Issue 2’s text. The House Finance Committee has heard the bill twice thus far.
It would maintain house growth under Issue 2, clarifying that it must occur at a residential address.
Under HB 354, tax revenue would be distributed as follows:
- 36% goes to the host community cannabis fund.
- 36% will go to the Cannabis Social Equity and Jobs Fund.
- 12.5% of the substance abuse and addiction budget would be directed to Ohio’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Fund, which administers the 988 system.
- 10% of the substance abuse and addiction money would go towards mental health and addiction treatments in county jails.
- 3% will be allocated to the Division of Marijuana Control and the Department of Taxation.
- 2.5% to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to help build the state’s mental health workforce.