Voters in more than a dozen Ohio municipalities will decide on ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana next month.
As it stands, 22 jurisdictions across the state have already adopted local statues effectively decriminalizing cannabis possession, some of which have been passed by voter initiatives while others were adopted by city councils.
Now, activists have succeeded in collecting enough signatures to qualify cannabis proposals for the November ballot to reduce the local punishment for low-level marijuana possession to the “lowest penalty allowed by state law,” which is zero days in jail and a fine of zero dollars.
The initiatives will go before voters in Brookside, Dillonvale, Laurelville, Martins Ferry, McArthur, Morristown, Mount Pleasant, Murray City, New Lexington, New Straitsville, Powhatan Point, Rayland, Tiltonsville and Yorkville.
NORML Appalachia of Ohio and the Sensible Marijuana Coalition also sought to qualify reform initiatives in dozens more cities and villages this year, but not every effort made it across the finish line. In those places where petitioning efforts fell short this cycle, the advocates say they’ll try again in future elections.
“This gets easier each time,” Don Keeney, an activist with the NORML chapter who has been involved in efforts for several election cycles, told Marijuana Moment. “We get better as we do more.”
Meanwhile, a separate campaign recently cleared a final hurdle to begin collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana statewide.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched its ballot effort in July. And the attorney general certified the measure in August after his office rejected summary language of an earlier version.
Ohio voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative that even some reform advocates opposed because of its oligopolistic model that would’ve granted exclusive control over cannabis production to the very funders who paid to put the measure on the ballot.
Advocates suspended a subsequent campaign to place a measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Persons convicted of violating this section shall be fined $0.00.”
For this year, some of the 14 local measures that activists qualified for ballots read, simply, “Shall [jurisdiction] adopt the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance, which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by State Law?”
But others, such as the ballot question in New Straitsville, are lengthier and spell out changes to local statutes, specifying that “if the amount of the drug involved is less than two hundred grams, possession of marihuana is a minor misdemeanor drug abuse offense” and that “persons convicted of violating this section shall be fined $0.00.”
The same zero-dollar fine would also apply to cultivating less than 200 grams worth of cannabis or possessing less than ten grams of solid hashish or less than two grams of liquid hashish. Gifting less than 20 grams of marijuana would also be covered, as would possessing or selling cannabis paraphernalia. Finally, the measure specifies that court costs for violations of any of the sections of the measure would also be set at zero dollars.
Meanwhile, addition to targeting Ohio cities for local reform measures, the Sensible Marijuana Coalition is also expanding its efforts to cover West Virginia and South Carolina as well.
Opportunities in Other States
Looking ahead to 2022, Ohio isn’t the only state where voters could see cannabis reform on the ballot.
Nebraska marijuana activists last week began petitioning for a pair of complementary initiatives to legalize medical cannabis that they hope to place on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Florida activists recently filed a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for adult use.
South Dakota marijuana activists are now ramping up for a signature gathering effort to put marijuana legalization on the 2022 ballot as the state Supreme Court continues to consider a case on the fate of the legal cannabis measure that voters approved last year.
New Hampshire lawmakers are pursuing a new strategy to legalize marijuana in the state that involves putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide on in 2022.
Lawmakers in Maryland are also crafting legislation to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the 2022 ballot after the House speaker called for the move.
Missouri voters may see a multiple marijuana initiatives on the state’s ballot next year, with a new group filing an adult-use legalization proposal that could compete with separate reform measures that are already in the works.
Arkansas advocates are collecting signatures to place adult-use marijuana legalization on the ballot.
Activists in Idaho are working to advance separate measures to legalize possession of recreational marijuana and to create a system of legal medical cannabis sales. State officials recently cleared activists to begin collecting signatures for a revised initiative to legalize possession of marijuana that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, a separate campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the state is also underway, with advocates actively collecting signatures to qualify that measure for next year’s ballot.
After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate in March, some senators hatched a plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. While their resolution advanced through a key committee, the full Senate blocked it. However, activists with the group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus are collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for the 2022 ballot.
Oklahoma advocates are pushing two separate initiatives to legalize marijuana for adult use and overhaul the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
Wyoming’s attorney general recently issued ballot summaries for proposed initiatives to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize cannabis possession, freeing up activists to collect signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.
And it’s not just marijuana measures that reform activists are seeking to qualify for state ballots next year. A California campaign was recently cleared to begin collecting signatures for an initiative to legalize psilocybin. And advocates in Washington State have announced plans to put a proposal to decriminalize all drug before voters.
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