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Legal Recreational Cannabis Sales in Ohio Could Start in Late Spring

Summer vacation could get a lot more interesting in Ohio this year. Recreational marijuana sales in the state could go into effect as early as mid-June, much to the disapproval of conservative Ohio lawmakers. The Department of Cannabis Control wasn’t supposed to start processing retail applications until June, with a target date for active sales by September. However, quick work by the DCC means that cannabis may be available several months ahead of schedule.

Recreational Marijuana Sales Coming Soon?

 In November, Ohio voters passed Issue 2, legalizing recreational marijuana in the state for adults 21 and over. The Department of Cannabis Control was created and put in charge of overseeing the Medical Marijuana Control Program Patient & Caregiver Registry in addition to regulating the newly formed recreational marijuana marketplace. The DCC wasn’t supposed to begin processing recreational retailer applications until at least June 2024, with actual sales following by around September. However, quick and efficient work by the agency means that recreational sales may begin in June. 

 The Joint Committee On Agency Rule is set to accept proposed regulations from the DCC, paving the way for retailers and recreational licensed retailers to open their doors by mid-June. Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) says the state should see recreational sales of marijuana at least before the July 4th holiday weekend. 

 During the May 13th JCARR meeting, lawmakers are expected to accept at least one vital dual licensing rule. Retail sites in Ohio already exist in the medical marijuana space. Accepting a dual licensing rule would mean medical retailers in Ohio could seek licensure that would allow them to sell recreational marijuana in addition to medicinal marijuana. Callender says the dual licensing process should be relatively easy considering the stringent application process these retailers already had to go through to obtain a medicinal marijuana license. He notes that dual applications could gain approval in as little as one week. 

An End to the Legislative Bickering for Now?

 Accepting dual licensing at this stage could be the solution to Republican infighting, which has plagued the Ohio legislature since the moment voters legalized recreational marijuana in November. In December, the Ohio Senate passed a measure that would have allowed medical dispensaries to immediately sell recreational marijuana. However, the trade-off was that the measure limited the number of home-grown marijuana plants, reduced THC levels of legal marijuana, and banned the majority of vapes. The Ohio House refused to take up the measure, saying the numbers, bans, and restrictions went against the will of the Ohio public, who voted in favor of Issue 2. 

 Although conservative Governor Mike DeWine supported the Senate proposal, the House noted that it was important to listen to the will of the voters. Members of the House say they supported allowing medical marijuana retailers to immediately sell recreational products to the public, but the bill’s restrictions were too limiting. The Senate and Gov. DeWine continued to push back on the House with little movement, causing delays and intensifying the fights between pro- and anti-legalization camps. 

Rep. Jamie Callender says allowing the JCARR to accept proposed regulations from the DCC to let medicinal retailers sell recreational marijuana to the public is the best way to solve the problem. He says, “There’s a lot of other issues around the marijuana market and industry that may need to be looked at, but this will give the governor and the Senate the immediacy that they were looking for. It takes one of the issues off the table successfully.” Callender notes that other marijuana regulation issues are soon to follow, like advertising limits and packaging for child safety. 

 Despite the bickering among lawmakers in the House and Senate, Callender is confident the JCARR will move forward with authorizing dual licensing. The JCARR is comprised of five representatives and five senators. He believes everyone on the House side is in line with progressing dual applications and is optimistic that at least the Democrats on the Senate side of the JCARR will add their support. He believes a seven to three vote is likely. 

 However, don’t expect a JCARR ruling to be the end of the line, as additional recreational marijuana legislation is likely. However, whether additional measures have the support to pass the House and Senate and earn Gov. DeWine’s signature remains to be seen, given the contentious nature of the marijuana debate in Ohio. 

Good News Despite a Rocky Start 

 Tidings that recreational sales begin as early as June are welcome news for Ohio recreational marijuana enthusiasts. Getting the measure on the ballot in the first place was such an uphill battle that the quick action on the part of the legislature has been surprising. Issue 2 has technically been years in the making, overcoming numerous legal and legislative hurdles in the process. 

 Almost as soon as Ohio voters passed the measure in November, conservative lawmakers were moving to take the teeth out of the newly passed law. Bills flooded the House and Senate seeking legal workarounds to prevent recreational marijuana from becoming the law of the land. Some measures sought to allow local governments to ban recreational marijuana, while others looked to limit home cultivation and divert tax revenue. 

 Many marijuana advocates thought it was only a matter of time before the Republican-controlled legislature passed proposals that would honor the letter but not the spirit of Issue 2. However, while differences in the House and Senate stalled the immediate sale of recreational marijuana, they also stalled proposals designed to limit the scope of recreational marijuana sales and potency. Although legislative changes to Issue 2 are not off the table entirely, in the meantime, approval from the JCARR to kickstart dual licensing, and recreational sales this summer would give the recreational market a much-needed boost that could make it harder for legislators to roll back the status quo down the road. 

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