Ohio Voters Pass Ballot Measure Legalizing Recreational Weed

Ohio just became the 24th state to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

An Ohio ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in the state is projected to pass, making it the 24th U.S. state to allow such use of the drug.

The measure allows people 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of the drug and to grow marijuana plants at home. It’s set to go into effect Dec. 7.

The bill’s passage on Tuesday comes eight years after Ohio voters soundly rejected a recreational weed ballot initiative. However, the state legislature legalized medical marijuana a year later in 2016.

Main support for the bill came from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which highlighted in recent ads the business opportunity lost by Ohioans crossing the border to Michigan, where recreational weed has been legal since 2018, to purchase the drug.

“Like all Ohioans I want to see my tax dollars stay in our state and go toward making our communities stronger,” campaign spokesperson Tom Haren said in a statement last month. The campaign pointed to a recent Ohio State University study that found legal recreational cannabis in Ohio could produce to $403 million in sales by the fifth year of operation.

The bill’s main opponent, a coalition called Protect Ohio Workers and Families, argued throughout the campaign that the “marijuana industry sells an addictive product — making money off people’s pain.” However, cannabis use disorder is relatively rare, and no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose.

Last month, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed a resolution officially opposing the bill, claiming it would “allow the marijuana industry to capitalize on addiction.”

“They must’ve been smoking dope when they wrote it,” Sen. Terry Johnson (R) said in a statement with the passing of the resolution.

Although two dozen states have legalized the drug, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency categorizes it as a Schedule I drug ― the most dangerous level of narcotics that includes heroin and ecstasy. It’s treated as more dangerous than cocaine, methamphetamine, and opiates, the latter of which was involved in around 80,000 overdose deaths last year.

Recreational weed initiatives were defeated in four states last year ― Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and South Dakota ― and passed in Maryland and Missouri.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Ohio voters chose to legalize medical marijuana in 2016. It was actually made legal in the state legislature.

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