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Will Ohio legalize recreational marijuana? Voters could decide before lawmakers

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:34 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:47 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - “There’s a Republican bill in the House. There’s a Democratic bill in the House. There’s a state ballot initiative. There is a yearning for this to happen in the state of Ohio”.

State Representative Terrence Upchurch lays it out plainly. He co-sponsored the Democratic bill that’s been introduced in the House. He says it’s a great opportunity for Ohio, but there’s also a threat if the state doesn’t join the 19 others that have reaped the benefits.

“What I don’t want to see happen is we begin to lose business, our population continues to decrease, and we lose out on huge economic opportunity because we’re still lagging behind.”

Thirty cities in Ohio have taken a step forward by decriminalizing misdemeanor cannabis possession. That means having smaller amounts is no longer an arrestable or fineable offense.

“It’s really no different than somebody going in a store and buying alcohol and going home and consuming. We’re not saying you can drive. We’re not saying you can sell it. We’re literally saying misdemeanor amounts should not be punished,” says Pricilla Harris, a cannabis activist who’s helped in the efforts.

Decriminalization is not new or innovative. Twenty-seven other states have done this. The maneuver protects users, but it doesn’t do anything to regulate or monetize the usage.

“We would actually be able to benefit our state and keep that money within our state of Ohio and help build schools, roads,” Harris explains.

“It’s clear that over the past budget cycle, there’s been local government cuts in the state. So this is another way to increase revenue to the city of Cleveland and offset some of those cuts that we’ve seen,” Upchurch adds.

Still, there has to be an appetite for legislation. At the Capitol, it’s lukewarm at best. However, a signature harvest has begun to get legalized adult-use marijuana on the ballot in 2022. If it does, you could decide directly without involving lawmakers.

Said Rep. Upchurch, “I’m excited about the ballot initiative. I think the people will move faster than the legislature”.

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