An initiative to legalize marijuana will not appear on Ohio’s November ballot, the campaign behind the measure announced on Friday. But activists did reach a settlement with state officials in a legal challenge that will give them a chance to hit the ground running in 2023.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) filed a lawsuit last month seeking declaratory judgement amid concerns that they might be challenged over the timing of the group’s initial signature submission for the reform measure.
But while activists had hoped the court would grant relief to enable them to collect additional signatures for ballot placement this year, they instead reached a compromise with the secretary of state and legislative leaders that puts them on a path to bring the reform measure before voters in 2023.
The process to qualify this measure for the ballot has been complicated, so here’s some background:
Advocates first needed to turn in a first batch of at least 132,887 valid signatures to the state to initiate a process whereby lawmakers would then have four months to consider the proposal and decide whether to act on it. They did that, but the legislature declined to move on reform.
Without legislative action after four months, the campaign would then need to submit another 132,887 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.
That’s what they were prepared to do, until the campaign was made aware of certain conversations among legislative officials and the attorney general’s office about whether the state Constitution would permit ballot placement considering the timeline for the initial signature turn-in and certification by the secretary of state.
It came down to a question of whether the activist-led initiative needed to be submitted and certified within ten days of the start of the legislative session.
In an ideal world for advocates, the court considering their lawsuit would have decided that the initial submission fell within the appropriate timeline and allowed them to begin the second round of signature gathering. Short of that, however, the campaign included in its legal challenge an alternative option whereby the first 132,887 signatures they turned in would be resubmitted at the start of the 2023 legislative session, prompting another four month window for lawmakers to consider advancing the reform.
The state and activists settled on that option, meaning the campaign will be set up to start collecting a second round for ballot placement if lawmakers don’t act again—instead of having to start the whole process all over again.
“The most important thing for us was preserving an opportunity for Ohio voters to decide this issue,” Tom Haren of CTRMLA said in a press release on Friday. “We are delighted to have reached this settlement, which has preserved our initial signatures, provided the General Assembly with a second opportunity to consider the proposed statute, and established a clear path to ballot access in 2023.
“To be certain: we aren’t going anywhere and are undeterred in our goal to legalize cannabis for all adults in Ohio,” he said.
Meanwhile, a pair of Ohio Democratic lawmakers recently filed a bill to legalize marijuana that directly mirrors the proposed initiative that activists are pursuing, but it is not expected to advance in the legislature.
Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D) are sponsoring the legislation, which is virtually identical to the CTRMLA citizen initiative. The lawmakers announced the plan on the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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Weinstein and Upchurch filed a separate legalization bill—the first in state history—last summer. But that measure has not advanced. Meanwhile, a GOP legislator who’s sponsoring a different bill to tax and regulate cannabis recently tempered expectations about the chances for legislative reform, signaling that the issue will likely have to be decided by voters.
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 recent poll found that a slim majority of Ohio voters would support marijuana legalization at the ballot.
There are also local reform efforts underway in Ohio for 2022.
Advocates say that counties have recently certified ballot measures to put local cannabis reform measures before voters in Laurelville and Shawnee, for example.
And voters in Kent—where activists already successfully proved that they turned in enough valid signatures to put a local decriminalization initiative before voters after clearing up a verification error on the part of county officials last year—will also decide on reform this year.
Several other jurisdictions—including Ashville, Canton, Chippewa Lake, Gloria Glens Park, Harbor View, Helena, Lodi, McArthur, New Boston, Otway, Portsmouth, Rarden, Rushville, Rutland, South Webster, Sugar Grove and West Salem—are also actively being targeted by activists with NORML and Sensible Movement Coalition (SMC) for reform measures this year.
The local developments come after voters in seven cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize marijuana possession during last November’s election, building on a slew of previous local reforms in the state.
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.
Read the text of the settlement in the marijuana legalization ballot case below:
Iowa Legalization Campaign Gives a Voice to the People
The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws is a nonpartisan organization that is striving to “reform Iowa’s medical and recreational cannabis laws based on fairness, financial prudence, and common sense.”
The group recently launched its newest campaign, which is led by Bradley Knott and Pete D’Alessandro. Recently, Knott authored an article about their drive to get Iowa up to speed with other states that have legalized cannabis. “Cannabis reform is sweeping the country. From ruby red South Dakota and Montana to perpetually blue New York and New Jersey, majorities from across the political spectrum are voting for reform. In some states it’s a stronger medical program,” Knott wrote. “In other states voters have gone all in for both medical and recreational cannabis. In Iowa, we don’t have a choice. We don’t even have a voice.”
Knott explains how tax revenue of Iowa’s neighboring states have been invested back into the community in ways of education, health care, and other beneficial services. He also refers to a poll from 2021, which found that eight of out 10 Iowans supported a stronger medical cannabis program, and 71% of state residents under age 35 supported adult-use legalization (with 56% of those between 35-54 also supporting adult-use as well).
Despite this positive data, many legislators in Iowa are not on board with the idea. When Illinois legalized cannabis, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed very clearly that she doesn’t support the cause. “I do not support recreational marijuana. I don’t. I won’t be the governor to do that,” she told The Gazette in June 2019. She shared her belief that cannabis is a gateway drug that leads to the use of other drugs.
Knott elaborates that state legislators should listen to the people, who should be able to vote on the topic. “Iowans are sensible people. They are proud of their state and have compassion toward others in need. And Iowa’s current cannabis laws make no sense,” he states plainly. “They make no sense if you want to capture lost tax dollars going to Illinois and Colorado. Or you want to build on and diversify Iowa’s excellence in agriculture, or stop the brain drain and keep the young folks here. Iowa’s cannabis laws make no sense if you want to help people who suffer from, or care for someone with, chronic pain, autism, cancer, or seizures. They make no sense if you believe in equal treatment or wise use of public safety dollars and keeping nonviolent offenders from crowding jails.”
There are a few Iowa legislators who support legalization though, as seen with the recently proposed Senate Joint Resolution 2003, which would have amended the Iowa constitution to legalize adult-use cannabis. However, it did not garner enough attention to proceed as law, which The Gazette states is due to the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Legislators like Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls believe that legalization is “long past due” though. “Democrats support legalization and Republicans oppose legalization, [and] Iowans who want legal cannabis need to vote for Democrats this election,” Wahls said.
In December 2021, Iowa state senators Joe Bolkcom, Janet Petersen and Sarah Trone Garriott joined to push a constitutional amendment for adult-use legalization. Bolkcom called out opposing legislators who aren’t considering the will of the people. “This has become a mainstream issue. “The majority of Iowans support this,” Bolkcom said. “The Republicans are in the minority on this. That said, we need their help to move this constitutional amendment to voters so they can have their voices heard.”
The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws welcomes Iowan support for the cause and offers a petition to be signed on its website, as well as opportunities to donate to the grassroots legalization effort.
New Study Confirms Safety of CBD
A new comprehensive study of more than 1,000 people has confirmed the safety of orally-ingested cannabidiol products and provides data that addresses the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s concerns about the safety of CBD. The two-part study found that daily consumption of CBD across a range of typical retail products and serving sizes is not associated with elevated liver tests, low testosterone levels, or daytime drowsiness.
To conduct the study, the research firm Validcare contracted with 17 CBD companies to study safety concerns previously expressed by the FDA. Validcare acted as the contract research organization, which included obtaining feedback from the FDA on the research protocol, conducting the study and publishing the results.
“The data in this study looks really good; it’s highly significant, and the chances of it being wrong are very, very small,” Dr. Robert Kaufmann, director of research for Validcare and a former professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, said in a statement from the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. “I am very hopeful that this data will allow the FDA to regulate these popular CBD products.”
The first cohort of the study, which was peer-reviewed and published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Medicine last year, studied how CBD products from 12 different manufacturers affected the liver function of 839 study participants. The second cohort included 222 additional individuals taking CBD products produced by five additional companies. The participation of the additional study subjects strengthened the statistical reliability of both the liver safety results and achieved statistical relevance for both sleep and testosterone results, according to the researchers.
The participants in the research were all adults aged 18 to 75 who had been taking oral CBD products for at least 30 days. Participants were recruited by the 17 CBD companies involved in the research for the decentralized observational study. The companies provided participants with their standard CBD regimen during the study period. All product companies supplied a third-party certificate of analysis (COA), which was confirmed by a neutral third party to ensure the composition of the supplied product matched both the label and the supplied COA.
FDA Still Has Not Regulated CBD
After hemp was legalized with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA recognized the “clear interest of Congress in fostering the development of appropriate hemp products” and noted that the agency “has the authority to issue a regulation,” which would allow for the legal marketing of CBD as a dietary supplement. The FDA said it would work to further clarify a regulatory approach for CBD products, “using science as our guide and upholding our rigorous public health standards.” However, the agency has not taken any substantial steps to regulate CBD, claiming that it needs more real-world data to move forward.
In March 2020, the FDA released a congressional report and public statement on potential regulatory pathways for the sale of hemp-derived CBD products, listing liver injury as the top concern for consumer safety, along with “male reproductive toxicity, or damage to fertility in males or male offspring of women.”
“We are excited to report that the ‘real-world data’ that FDA has been soliciting addresses the agency’s safety concerns,” stated Jonathan Miller, general counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, the hemp industry’s national advocacy organization. “The time has come for FDA to regulate CBD and other hemp derivatives.”
The results of the study have renewed calls from CBD producers and the hemp industry for the FDA to expedite the regulation of CBD products.
“Participating in this study has allowed us to help provide regulators, scientists, product formulators, and other stakeholders with the evidence needed to prove the safety profile of CBD,” said Blake Schroeder, CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc. and its subsidiary, Kannaway, one of the companies that participated in the research. “We hope that this, in addition to our other research efforts in Brazil and Mexico, will not only help break the stigma around CBD but that it will also help legislators understand the importance of free, legal access to the entire cannabis plant.”
If the FDA still does not act to regulate CBD products, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable is calling on Congress to pass relevant legislation. There are currently three pending bills, H.R. 841, H.R. 6134 and S. 1698, that would require the FDA to develop regulatory pathways for the sale of hemp extracts such as CBD in ingestible form.
“We are proud to have participated in this ground-breaking study on CBD products and feel verified in our products’ excellent results in the testing. These results bode very well for supporting the hemp industry against the fears that FDA had previously stated which had been a hurdle in their regulatory process,” said Vince Sanders, the owner CBD American Shaman. “We are excited they can now rely on this study in verifying CBD products as safe for the human liver, have no effects of day-time drowsiness, and no negative effect on low testosterone levels or reproductive harm of male participants or the male offspring of women in the study.”
Massachusetts Adult-Use Marijuana Sales Officially Exceed $3 Billion, State Reports
Massachusetts adult-use marijuana sales have officially surpassed $3 billion since the market launched in 2018, state officials reported on Wednesday.
With 216 cannabis retailers and 11 delivery businesses operating across the commonwealth, the total gross sales for recreational marijuana reached $3,001,846,490 as of May 14.
The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) noted that it’s only been eight months since the state reported that sales had exceeded $2 billion.
“These sales figures illustrate the steady growth Massachusetts residents expected when they voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2016, and the Commission was appointed in 2017,” CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said in a press release.
“I’m proud our staff continue to work diligently to ensure applicants move through our licensing process efficiently,” Collins said. “Marijuana Establishments operate within a safe, accessible, and effective regulated market, and our work to ensure equity in the industry and the agency remains front and center.”
Today, @MA_Cannabis announced adult-use Marijuana Establishments in MA surpassed $3 billion in gross sales, according to the information that licensees report in the state’s mandatory seed-to-sale tracking system.
Learn more: https://t.co/B2UuNZsfng
— Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (@MA_Cannabis) May 18, 2022
This year’s cannabis holiday known as 4/20 saw $5,986,186 in marijuana sales on that one day alone, which is more than $1 million more compared to April 20 of last year, CCC said. Massachusetts marijuana tax revenue is now also exceeding that being generated from alcohol sales.
Further, the agency said that in 2021, there were $1,331,246,109 in cannabis purchases at the state’s 194 retailers at the time. That year marketed the first time that “Massachusetts’ regulated cannabis industry surpassed $1 billion in gross sales in a single calendar year.”
Massachusetts isn’t the only state that’s seeing a cannabis economic boom.
Earlier this month, Michigan officials announced that the state broke a marijuana sales record in April, with nearly $200 million in cannabis purchases.
Illinois adult-use marijuana sales reached nearly $132 million in April, the second highest monthly total since the market launched in 2020 and another sign that the state’s industry is stabilizing following a slump at the beginning of this year.
Arizona cannabis sales reached a new record in its adult-use market in March, according to the state.
In Colorado, the state released sales data for March showing that marijuana purchases rebounded in March after a prolonged slump this year. However, sales are still down from 2021 levels.
Altogether, states that have legalized marijuana for adult use collectively generated more than $3.7 billion in tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales in 2021, according to a report from MPP.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
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