COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Thousands of people waited in long lines on New Year’s Day to buy marijuana on the first day of sales in Illinois. Nearly $11 million in sales were made in the first week. While Midwestern states like Michigan and Illinois have legalized adult-use marijuana but so far there are no plans for Ohio to follow suit. Activists and advocates may be trying to change that but it’s unlikely Ohio’s cannabis laws will change in the near future.
“It’s not a matter of if this is going to come to the state but when it’s going to come,” said Tim Johnson with the Ohio Cannabis and Hemp Chamber of Commerce. “Ohio is very active. The advocates, the activists, those organizations that are involved in this to seeing something happen in Ohio. It’s just a matter of time. It’s around the corner. It’s going to happen.”
So far marijuana is only legal in Ohio for medical purposes. There are 21 conditions approved by the state for people to use it for treatment. The state released new figures Tuesday showing nearly 80,000 registered patients in Ohio. More than 55,000 of them have bought medical marijuana.
Industry insiders said they don’t expect Ohio lawmakers to consider legalizing recreational marijuana in 2020. Johnson said he has a bill drafted to allow for adult use, expunge marijuana possession convictions and allow people to grow it at home. He said there’s bipartisan support but so far there isn’t a lawmaker stepping forward to sponsor it.
“I think they realized when they passed the medical program the sky didn’t fall on us,” he said.
Ohio’s medical marijuana program was months late getting up and running despite the law giving the state two years to make it operational. Johnson said lawmakers have told him they want to fix problems with the medical program before moving to expand legalization to all adults.
“Ohio, they don’t want to say we’re first at it,” he said. “We want to see what other states do yet Ohio turns around and says, ‘as Ohio goes, so the nation goes’. Well, you have to be first for that to happen so you have to step up and do it.”
There are efforts for a ballot initiative to allow voters to decide whether to legalize. Johnson said the earliest one of those efforts could meet the requirements to appear on the ballot would be 2021.