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Ohio Democrats push to legalize recreational marijuana

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A bill is set to be introduced next week, but will likely face some opposition along the way.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The legal use of marijuana without a medical reason has eluded Ohioans for years. But that could change as early as next year.

State Representative Casey Weinstein of Hudson plans to introduce legislation next week for the wholesale legalization, regulation, and taxation of recreational marijuana. The bill is being co-sponsored by another Democrat, Rep. Terrance Upchurch. 

In the bill, Ohioans would be allowed to have five ounces of marijuana and up to 15 plants for personal use. Those looking to set up retail locations would apply for licenses. 

“And it’s subjected to normal sales taxes and an additional 10% excise tax, which channels and goes right back into the communities that are hosting the retail and dispensaries,” expains Weinstein. 

To pass a bill like this, it will take bipartisan support which Weinstein believes does exist. On Friday, Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) told 3News he supports legalizing recreational use for adults, but said he can’t be sure he’d support this particular legislation depending on its language.

“We’ve reached a tipping point in our country and if you look at the polling for our Ohioans and Americans, it is overwhelming, and it is bipartisan,” adds Weinstein.

There is a nationwide push for marijuana legislation. Earlier this week, Democratic Senate members proposed removing marijuana from the federal controlled substances list and expunging records of non-violent cannabis offenders. Ohio’s law would do teh same locally. 

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“Nonviolent small levels of possession, folks who have been convicted of that, will have their records sealed,” explains Weinstein. “And they will get an opportunity to participate in the labor force again and participate in this market.”

Weinstein argues Ohio is playing catch up as 18 states plus Washington D.C. already allow recreational use of marijuana. His goal is to legalize it in the Buckeye State as well by early 2022. 

“Elected officials need to catch up to where Ohioans are, and this bill is a big effort to get us to where we need to be,” he adds.

The biggest roadblock involves how the program operates. Republicans are working on their own verson of legalization that would instead expand the current medical marijuana program. Both programs would have to win over Governor Mike DeWine, whose office says he does not support legislation.

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