Ohio voters in at least seven cities will get a chance to join many of their neighboring jurisdictions in enacting local marijuana decriminalization at the ballot this November.
Activists targeted more than a dozen cities for this year’s election, collecting signatures to place cannabis reform initiatives on local ballots. The Sensible Movement said in a blog post on Monday that they and NORML Appalachia of Ohio secured enough petitions to put the issue before voters in seven cities.
Both groups have organized efforts to locally decriminalize marijuana across the state for the better part of the last decade. To date, the reform has been enacted at the ballot in more than two dozen Ohio localities.
This year, voters will decide on decriminalization in Corning, Helena, Hemlock, Kent, Laurelville, Rushville and Shawnee. Local officials certified petitions for some of those jurisdictions before summer, with others being finalized more recently.
Voters in seven other cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana possession during last November’s election, building on a slew of previous local reforms in the state.
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Prior to that election, more than 20 jurisdictions across the state had already adopted local statues effectively decriminalizing possession—some of which have been passed by voter initiatives while others were adopted by city councils in major cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.
Ohio isn’t the only state where activists have worked to give localities a say in cannabis policy at the ballot this year.
Advocates have worked to place local decriminalization ordinances on the ballot in cities across West Virginia and Texas, for example.
Wisconsin voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties will also be asked on November’s ballot whether they support legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. Those Wisconsin advisory questions will be non-binding, however, and are intended to take the temperature of voters and send a message to lawmakers about where their constituents stand.
Meanwhile, an effort to put adult-use legalization on the statewide ballot in Ohio fizzled out this year, but the campaign did secure a procedural legal win that will allow them to hit the ground running for a planned 2023 reform initiative.
In the legislature, a pair of Ohio Democratic lawmakers—Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D)—filed a bill to legalize marijuana that directly mirrored the proposed measure that activists were pursuing, but it didn’t advance in the legislature.
Weinstein and Upchurch filed a separate legalization bill—the first in state history—last summer that also failed to move.
Meanwhile, a pair of Republican lawmakers also introduced legalization legislation this past session.
Ohio voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative that faced criticism from many reform advocates because of an oligopolistic model that would’ve granted exclusive control over cannabis production to the very funders who paid to put the measure on the ballot.
Activists suspended a subsequent campaign to place a legalization measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A poll released earlier this year found that a slim majority of Ohio voters would support marijuana legalization at the ballot.
Here’s the status of other state drug policy measures that activists targeted for the November election:
North Dakota voters will have the chance to decide on marijuana legalization at the ballot this November, the secretary of state’s office confirmed.
In neighboring South Dakota, a marijuana legalization initiative has again qualified for the ballot.
The Arkansas Supreme Court recently ordered the secretary of state’s office to certify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot—but there’s a chance that the votes will not end up being counted, depending on the final outcome of a pending legal challenge.
Maryland elections officials have finalized the language for a marijuana legalization referendum that lawmakers placed on the November ballot, and have issued a formal summary of the reform proposal.
Missouri’s secretary of state certified that activists turned in more than enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot.
Colorado voters will have the chance to decide on a historic ballot initiative this November to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin “healing centers” where people can use the substance for therapeutic purposes.
The Oklahoma attorney general revised the ballot title of a marijuana legalization initiative that activists hope will be certified to go before the state’s voters, making mostly technical changes that the campaign views as satisfactory.
Nebraska advocates recently submitted signatures for a pair of medical cannabis legalization initiatives. The campaign has faced several challenges along the way, including the loss of critical funding after a key donor passed away and a court battle of the state’s geographic requirements for ballot petitions.
Michigan activists announced in June that they will no longer be pursuing a statewide psychedelics legalization ballot initiative for this year’s election and will instead focus on qualifying the measure to go before voters in 2024.
The campaign behind an effort to decriminalize drugs and expand treatment and recovery services in Washington State said in June that it has halted its push to qualify an initiative for November’s ballot.
While Wyoming activists said earlier this year that they made solid progress in collecting signatures for a pair of ballot initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical cannabis, they didn’t get enough to make the 2022 ballot deadline and will be aiming for 2024 while simultaneously pushing the legislature to advance reform even sooner.
In March, California activists announced that they came up short on collecting enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they aren’t giving up on a future election cycle bid.
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