What the Pot?! 12 Key Questions About Legalized Marijuana in Ohio.

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On August 12, 2015, Secretary of State John Husted announced that Responsible Ohio’s Proposed Amendment would be on the November Ballot for Ohioans to decide. The full text of the proposed Amendment is here. It includes the creation of a Commission that would come up with rules to regulate the marijuana market in Ohio – including the sale, taxation, packaging, advertising, licensing, and location of commercial marijuana facilities and non-profit dispensaries that would produce and sell commercial marijuana. Here are 12 key questions answered:

  • How much marijuana could I have? You could possess one ounce (28 grams) of purchased and commercially produced pot. You would purchase it at a non-profit dispensary. You must be 21 years old or older to buy.
  • Can I grow for personal use? You can purchase a license to produce homegrown marijuana for $50, annually. As with other licenses in Ohio, the administrative procedures would apply – meaning you have rights of appeal and notice regarding the status of your license. You must be 21 years or older to register a license. The license covers 4 flowering plants and up to 8 ounces of “homegrown” bud. The sale, barter, or other commodity-based exchange of homegrown marijuana would remain illegal. In other words, the only marijuana flowing through the free market would be commercially produced marijuana – but you are not required to purchase commercially produced pot.
  • Am I restricted in how I consume my pot? No. There is no restriction on paraphernalia or form of marijuana consumption (i.e., smoke, ingest, or otherwise).
  • Am I limited in terms of the potency marijuana I can purchase? We don’t know yet. The Commission will set those rules once it is in place.
  • If Pot is legalized Can I Still Get Charged With Operating A Vehicle Under the Influence (“OVI”)? Yes you can. The Amendment provides for the General Assembly to pass laws imposing criminal penalties for operating or being in physical control of a vehicle, aircraft, train, or motorboat while under the influence of medical marijuana, homegrown, or edibles. There is no definition of “under the influence of marijuana” provided in terms of content for blood or urine for each potential substance. This could have HUGE implications for Ohioan’s pulled over for suspected impaired driving. Marijuana metabolites remain in the body long after the impaired influence of marijuana has dissipated, yet the per se OVI statue means that if your urine or blood shows particular a marijuana metabolite concentration, you are automatically guilty of OVI.
  • What other rights are not granted by “legalization” under this Amendment? You can still be arrested for illegally trafficking homegrown marijuana. You can be charged with possession more than one ounce of pot with out a proper license. You can absolutely still be charged for operating a vehicle or equipment under the influence. There are no protections to keep you from being fired by your employer for testing positing for marijuana use, whether medicinal or recreational. There is no provision that addresses expungement of prior marijuana arrests or convictions; nor is there a provision addressing the release of inmates held on or convicted of marijuana crimes.
  • What’s this about a ten site growing monopoly? The Amendment would limit the commercial production sites to ten locations, preselected and located in: Butler, Clermont, Franklin, Hamilton, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Delaware, Stark and Summit Counties. A commercial license must be obtained from the Commission that the Amendment establishes. Limiting the commercial growing location to ten plots can seem like a monopoly on the surface, but lets explore a possible rationale. Ohio is looking to decriminalize the commercial production of marijuana but maintain a highly regulated market that keeps children out and minimizes the flow of marijuana products outside of the State. Limiting the areas of commercial production to ten locations means that the State and Law Enforcement know exactly where legal commercial production takes place and who carries the license to produce and transport marijuana commercially. The Amendment includes a requirement that the Commission undertake market studies to ensure that the commercial production facilities provided are meeting demand – recreational and medicinal. If the ten grow sites are insufficient to meet demand, the Commission can add more plots that are adjacent to the ten already designated – or add more space in another location entirely. If the commercial producer is not producing enough product, failing inspections, or not complying with regulations, the Commission can revoke the license and reassign it. Moreover, the ten sites regulate commercial production – there is absolutely no monopoly on growth for personal use. The only restriction on growing for personal use is the $50 license and your own housing restrictions.
  • What does legalization through this Amendment mean for me as a business owner? There’s no need to allow or accommodate, promote, or condone marijuana use at the workplace, except that a patient may self-administer marijuana under the prescribed conditions. Employers are still free to limit employee use of marijuana, and again, there is no protection for testing positive whether it is recreational or medicinal use.
  • I’m a landlord. Do I have to allow pot smoking in my buildings? No you don’t. Like tobacco smoking, you are free to limit or prohibit the smoking of marijuana in your rental properties. You can prohibit the growing of marijuana in your buildings or on your real property. These restrictions work like all rental restrictions – you must contract for them in the text of your lease.
  • Will public parks, concerts, and events be ruined by marijuana smoke? No. The public consumption of marijuana would remain illegal.
  • Are Pot Dispensaries going to pop up and ruin my family-friendly neighborhood? No, not unless you vote to allow them there. Locations for dispensaries must be petitioned for through a local election similar to the way elections for the sale of alcohol at a particular location in a precinct are held. The Commission would determine the number of dispensaries permitted in a particular area, and the total number of dispensaries allowed statewide is limited by the ratio of one to ten thousand based on Ohio’s population.
  • What protections are there to keep marijuana from children? The Amendment calls for the criminalization of any person to “knowingly sell or transfer marijuana, homegrown marijuana, medical marijuana, or marijuana-infused products to a person under the age of 21” as child endangerment, with an enhanced penalty upon conviction. Dispensaries could not be located near schools, daycares, libraries, or churches. Like alcohol, the possession or consumption of marijuana (commercial or homegrown) or edibles by someone under the age of 21 would be illegal. The use of medicinal marijuana by someone under the age of 21 but over the age of 18 requires no informed consent by a guardian; the use of medicinal marijuana by someone under the age of 18 requires informed consent of a custodial parent or guardian.
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