Marijuana Decriminalization Ballot Measures Approved in Five Ohio Cities

Activists in the state have been working to enact local cannabis reform over recent election cycles. While decriminalization did not qualify for every municipal ballot targeted by advocates for 2022, six Ohio cities voted on policy changes.

Five of the six Ohio cities approved local marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives during the midterm election.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), marijuana is a mind-altering (psychoactive) drug, produced by the Cannabis sativa plant.

The Sensible Movement Coalition, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and NORML Appalachia of Ohio have spearheaded the local movement for the last decade.

Voters decided on decriminalization in Corning, Hemlock, Kent, Laurelville, Rushville, and Shawnee. All jurisdictions except Hemlock passed the reform.

“The people of Ohio are ready for a change in cannabis laws, even at the local level. From the city of Kent to the small villages of Southeast Ohio, they want this,” NORML Appalachia of Ohio’s Don Keeney posted on social media.

Local officials certified petitions for some of those jurisdictions prior to summer, with others being finalized more recently. Activists said that they met the requirements to qualify for an additional decriminalization measure in Helena but officials declined to officially certify it, leaving the measure now subject to litigation in court.

During last November’s election, seven other cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana possession. Prior to that, more than 20 jurisdictions across the state had already adopted local statutes effectively decriminalizing possession. Some statutes passed by voter initiatives while city councils in major cities like Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland adopted others.

The Coalition of Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted signatures to put legalization on this year’s state ballot. A court ruled in May that the group did not qualify because of timing problems. However, the court did clear activists to take up the reform again in 2023 without being required to collect a new initial batch of signatures to prompt a legislative review.

A pair of Ohio Democratic lawmakers State Representatives Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), and Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) separately filed a bill, House Bill (HB) 382, to legalize marijuana last summer.

“Decriminalization efforts are happening across the state, and Ohio is ready for legalization statewide. By ignoring that fact, Republican leadership is only showing Ohio that they are afraid of the voters and how they will turn out for this issue. I will now be refocusing my efforts back to getting hearings for HB382 to make sure that we are still giving a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who signed that petition initiative and expect action,” Weinstein said.

HB 382 was assigned to the House Finance Committee and is still waiting on its first hearing.

According to The Recovery Center, a study released in October 2012 found that individuals treated for addiction to marijuana had a higher mortality rate than those with diagnoses related to cocaine or alcohol, but lower than those with methamphetamine or opioid-related disorders.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that studies link marijuana use to depression, anxiety, suicide planning, and psychotic episodes. It is not known, however, if marijuana use is the cause of these conditions.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC) a 156-member GOP House Caucus unveiled the Family Policy Agenda in September, which includes a “danger of drugs” section entirely about cannabis legalization and how it leads to violent crime and suicide.

“Congress should not legalize marijuana, while also taking steps to constrain this new industry’s ability to harm children. At the very least, Congress should direct the CDC to gather data and conduct studies on the health impacts of THC use during childhood and early adolescence with a special focus on deaths by suicide and those involved in violent crime to provide Congress and the public with further information about these dangers,” the Family Policy Agenda reads.

In 2015, Ohio voters defeated an initiated constitutional amendment that would have legalized the limited sale and use of marijuana and created 10 facilities with exclusive commercial rights to grow marijuana. The vote margin was 63.65 percent to 36.35 percent. ResponsibleOhio PAC sponsored the initiative.

The conservative Center for Christian Virtue says it is poised to fight efforts to legalize cannabis in Ohio. Its leader, Aaron Baer, says the group opposed the failed 2015 attempt to legalize pot and will fight again.

“The marijuana industry is not going to be able to fool another state, is not going to be able to fool Ohioans with their lies and their empty promises of what marijuana will do for our state. The tax revenue is not true. The harmless effect of it is not true. The reality, it brings devastation,” Baer said.

Marijuana and THC remain illegal at the federal level, even though many states have legalized their use.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Cannabis” by Alexander Grey.




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