Adult-use marijuana legalization qualifies for Ohio ballot

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Adult-use marijuana legalization will appear on Ohio voters’ ballots in November.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign qualified a legalization initiative for the upcoming election, the organizers announced late Wednesday.

If voters approve the measure, Ohio would be the third state to legalize marijuana in 2023, following in the footsteps of Delaware and Minnesota.

Both states legalized via the legislative process.

“We are grateful to the thousands of Ohioans who helped us get to this point and are excited to bring our proposal to regulate marijuana like alcohol before Ohio voters this coming Election Day,” campaign spokesperson Tom Haren said via an emailed news release.

The well-funded campaign submitted more than 223,000 signatures from registered voters in late July but were told only 123,367 were valid.

Organizers had another 10 days to submit 679 valid signatures. They delivered 6,545 in early August.

The Ohio secretary of state did not immediately respond to an MJBizDaily request for confirmation on Thursday morning.

The initiative’s qualification is the culmination of a yearslong, drawn-out process that’s included lawsuits.

Organizers sought to put legalization on the November 2022 ballot only to meet opposition from Republican state lawmakers.

That triggered a lawsuit and a subsequent settlement that paved the way for qualification for the off-cycle ballot in November.

Critics have said that shunting adult-use legalization to low-turnout, off-cycle elections is a deliberate technique meant to help defeat the measure.

An example is the low-turnout special election held in Oklahoma in March, when adult-use legalization was handily defeated.

However, Ohio’s November election is expected to be high-energy and contentious.

Along with marijuana legalization, Ohio voters will decide an abortion-rights measure.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign has raised $4.7 million to date, according to the most recent campaign finance data.

Leading funders include the Washington DC-based advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project and major cannabis companies with interests in Ohio such as Chicago-headquartered multistate operator Cresco Labs, campaign finance records show.

Polling shows a consistent majority supports adult-use legalization in Ohio, which approved a strictly regulated medical marijuana program in 2016.

However, sales didn’t begin until 2019.