Ohio's GOP-Led Weed Sentencing Bill Gets Gov. Signature, Lawmakers Review Legalization Yet Again

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a GOP-led bill seeking to prevent people from the burden of a criminal record for a simple marijuana paraphernalia arrest into law on Tuesday, reported Signal Cleveland.

Senate Bill 288, a large-scale criminal justice legislation from Sen. Nathan Manning (R), contains marijuana-specific provisions under which misdemeanor cannabis paraphernalia possession cases would not need to be disclosed "in response to any inquiries about the person's criminal record."

Legislation that had previously advanced through the Ohio legislature in December will maintain that cannabis possession is considered a minor misdemeanor offense.

The measure also allows county/local prosecutors to apply for expungements to vacate minor misdemeanor drug offenses.

The new law will take effect in roughly three months.

"The adoption of this law will make it so that tens of thousands of Ohioans are no longer stigmatized and disenfranchised by the collateral consequences resulting from a minor marijuana violation," Jax James, NORML's State Policy Manager, said. "People should not have their lives derailed for behaviors that most Americans no longer even believe ought to be a crime."

Ohio Lawmakers Give Four Months To Review Legal Marijuana Initiative

Meanwhile, with the new Ohio legislative session kicking off in January, cannabis reform remains a hot topic.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) was among the first to address the issue this year. He sent a letter to legislative leaders on Wednesday, formally resubmitting a marijuana legalization petition. Now, the lawmakers have four months to consider the proposed reform.

"As stipulated in the Settlement Order, today shall be considered the date on which the German Assembly's four-month period to consider the proposed law begins, as provided for in Article II, Section 1b of the Ohio Constitution, and no parties shall take any direct or indirect action in contravention of this re-transmission," the secretary of state wrote in the letter to lawmakers.

Interestingly, in an interview, LaRose told PD reporters last year that the state's Legislature should raise the bar to require a 60% supermajority for voters to green-light constitutional amendments.

"I think the signature threshold may be one thing to look at," LaRose said. "But another one might be it takes a supermajority vote in the Legislature to refer a question to the ballot; why not require a supermajority vote of the citizens to pass a constitutional amendment?"

Either way, a recreational cannabis legalization measure is expected to reach the ballot in 2023. For now, only medical marijuana is legal in Ohio.

"The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pleased that our proposal was re-transmitted to the Ohio General Assembly and that the Secretary of State clarified that the General Assembly's four-month clock to consider our proposal has begun," Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign, told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday.

Ohio cannabis activists submitted more than enough valid signatures (about 133,000) last year for state lawmakers to consider the proposal, which would allow Ohio adults over 21 to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, 15 grams of concentrates, and grow up to six plants individually and no more than 12 per household. However, due to procedural complications, the legalization initiative didn't reach the November 2022 ballot.

Photo: Courtesy of Kindel Media by Pexels and f11photo by Shutterstock

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentRegulationsPoliticsMarketsGeneralcriminal reformFrank LaRoseJax JamesLegalizationmarijuanaMarijuana MomentMike DeWineNathan ManningOhioTom Haren
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