Lawmakers aim to pass marijuana regulations by June

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Back in December, recreational marijuana became legal in the state, but as of now, the first recreational sale won’t happen until September.

Lawmakers have considered passing a bill to change that, but Republican leadership is struggling to see eye-to-eye on the passage of related legislation.

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“I am, I would not say optimistic, but I am reasonably hopeful, if you need words, that we can get something done by June,” Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said.

“It depends on what it looks like, right,” Speaker of the Ohio House Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said. “A lot of members have certain things that they think are important, others don’t think they are as important. It’s about building a consensus.”

Huffman said he wants to look at things like scaling back the home-grow provision, and where the tax revenue will go.

“With greater access to marijuana, there will be more visits to poison control centers,” he said. “That’s really important that we fund that, now that’s part of redoing the package of how the taxes are passed.”

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Stephens agreed – he thinks the money piece is important. He said it is the biggest issue from a legislative standpoint, but he said first they must know how much money the state will make.

“There’s estimates,” Stephens said. “But we’ve seen estimates before whether it’s gambling or other revenue services that were going to be X and turned out they would be Y.”

Stephens said he thinks it is important to be sure local governments are getting money to invest directly back into their communities.

“What is the exact amount of taxes, what does that add up to, how does that compare, how much flexibility do local communities have,” Stephens said.

But Huffman said he thinks there is one issue that is most important to address before recreational sales become available.

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“I think what’s most pressing is people smoking marijuana when they’re walking down the street,” Huffman said.

Back in December, the Senate did pass a bill to add guardrails and offer immediate home grow, but the House has yet to have a single hearing on the Senate’s proposal, though representatives have worked on their own bill.

“As we go into the future there will continually be changes and tweaks to recreational marijuana in Ohio,” Stephens said.

“I think most reasonable people, including people in the industry, believe that it would be better to have it clarified in law,” Huffman said.

The House is also working on a bill to expunge marijuana records. 

In the past, Gov. Mike DeWine has urged the passage of a marijuana-related bill while keeping what the voters passed intact. Most recently he said he is “not going to get into that,” as Republican leadership fails to come to an agreement.

Instead, DeWine said he wants to see delta-8, or low-level THC, become less accessible as soon as possible.

“This is time for the legislature to move,” DeWine said. “We can’t do it ourselves.”

Right now, there are no age restrictions on delta-8 products, and anyone can buy them at a gas station or convenience store. The governor called regulations in this area an “emergency.”

Legislation to regulate delta-8 is in the works at the statehouse, but no bill has been formally introduced yet.

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