The Ohio-based advocacy group known as Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMA) got a citizen-initiative approved to legalize cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and sales for residents over 21.

In July, advocates submitted 123,367 signatures to qualify for the ballot this November, but they actually needed 124,046. “It looks like we came up a little short in this first phase, but now we have 10 days to find just 679 voters to sign a supplemental petition—this is going to be easy, because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult use marijuana,” said CRMA spokesperson Tom Haren.

Advocates worked to collect the remaining 679 signatures, but instead submitted 6,545 signatures for the initiative to qualify for the ballot in early August.

Recently Ohio voters rejected Issue 1, which was a constitutional change proposal that would have made it more difficult to enact constitutional amendments. In the case of a proposed ballot measure heading to the polls for abortion rights, the failure of Issue 1 would instead allow the measure to pass with a majority vote, rather than a minimum of 60% in favor.

While the cannabis citizen-initiative will not amend the Ohio constitution, and therefore is not affected by Issue 1, it could be indirectly affected in terms of increased voter turnout. “The failure of Issue 1 really, really is going to create a massive turnout in November and the people that I think would be likely to vote on that abortion issue would also be more likely to vote positively on the recreational marijuana issue,” Attorney David Waxman told the Ohio Capital Journal.

Another attorney, James Sandy, added that the hot topic of abortion rights will distract voters from opposing the cannabis initiative. “Being on the ballot with such a hot issue like abortion, some of the groups that might be willing to fundraise against legalizing adult-use in Ohio are going to be using those resources on the abortion initiative,” Sandy said.

Haren maintained confidence for the success of cannabis legalization. “We have always believed that our issue is popular and will pass no matter the date of the election or who we share the ballot with,” Haren said.

A recent poll conducted by Suffolk University found that 59% of voters support legalizing cannabis possession and sales.

“I think people who go out to vote in November are likely to support us no matter what they vote on the abortion amendment,” said Haren. “I think we will be popular among those who vote yes (on the abortion rights amendment) and we’re going to be popular among those who vote no (on the abortion rights amendment) as well.”

The Ohio cannabis ballot initiative was confirmed to be on the ballot on Aug. 16.

A paper published by researchers at Ohio State University, entitled “What Tax Revenues Should Ohioans Expect If Ohio Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis?” found that Ohio could collect up to $403.6 million in annual tax revenue if cannabis is legalized. This is the second time researchers have published a report on the potential impact of legalization in Ohio, which previously estimated that the state could earn anywhere between $276.2 million (last year’s estimate) to $403.6 million after five years of legalization have passed.

“Though these projections are subject to various assumptions, the tax revenue experiences of other states support claims that Ohio is likely to generate hundreds of millions in tax revenues from a mature adult-use market,” researchers wrote. “For comparison, in FY 2021, Ohio casinos have generated gross tax revenues of over $300 million, so it is possible that cannabis sales in Ohio will generate tax returns comparable to those now collected through the gross casino revenue tax.”

Researchers concluded that these estimates for annual cannabis tax revenue would be impressive, but still only “represent a small percentage of Ohio’s $60+ billion annual budget.”

This article was updated on 8/17/23.

 Valid ballot initiative signatures have been submitted, and “massive turnout” is expected this November for cannabis and abortion rights.
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