Possession, consumption of legal marijuana in Ohio could come quickly

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(The Center Square) – Changes are expected to come to Ohio’s newly passed legalization of recreational marijuana.

Lawmakers have 30 days to make amendments to the law that easily passed Tuesday night as an initiated statute rather than a constitutional amendment.

The statute passed with 57% approval out of 3.8 million votes cast. Ohioans can begin to possess and consume marijuana Dec. 7.

Sales will take longer.

The Division of Cannabis Control must be established to set rules for getting a license and product standards, among other things. The state faces a nine-month deadline to issue the first licenses to growers and dispensaries, which will go to existing businesses with medical marijuana licenses and other operators under the equity program.

After that, the state cannot issue another license for two years.

Other changes, however, could come quickly.

Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, has concerns about the current industry developing standards.

“This statute was written by the marijuana industry and should not be treated as a cash grab for their cash crop at the expense of a state trying to emerge from the opioid epidemic,” Huffman said.

The law creates a 10% marijuana tax on top of current state and local sales taxes, which experts have said could amount to more than $200 million annually. The law earmarks that money for administrative costs, addiction treatment, and municipalities with dispensaries.

Huffman said lawmakers could adjust tax rates, THC limits – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the primary intoxicant in cannabis products – and earmarks.

House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, wants the Legislature to focus on law enforcement.

“With the passage of Issue 2, now is the time for the Legislature to lead on how best to allocate tax revenues while responsibly regulating the industry,” Stephens said. “Investing in county jail construction and funding law enforcement training across Ohio should be our top priority to make our communities safer.”

Ohio becomes the 23rd state, plus Washington, D.C., to legalize recreational marijuana, joining Minnesota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, Missouri, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois, Michigan, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington.

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