Ohio Attorney General Delivers Blow to Coalition’s Push for Adult-Use Cannabis

Dave Yost rejects the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s summary language of an initiated statute to legalize and regulate cannabis.

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An Ohio coalition’s push to legalize adult-use cannabis got the wind knocked out of it Thursday.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost ruled that the summary of a 45-page initiative petition was not a “fair and truthful statement of the proposed law,” essentially grounding the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s push to collect the necessary signatures to put its petition before the Ohio Legislature.

The Ohio Supreme Court has defined “summary” relative to an initiated petition as “a short, concise summing up,” which properly advises potential signers of a proposed measure’s character without the necessity of pursuing it at length.

“Having reviewed the submission, I am unable to certify the proposed summary as a fair and truthful summing up of the proposed chapter,” Yost said in his written decision.

The initiative petition, “An Act to Control and Regulate Adult-Use Cannabis,” does not seek to enact a single law, rather, it seeks to add an entire chapter to the Ohio Revised Code, according to Yost, who said his only obligation is to determine whether the submitted summary is fair and truthful.

Overall, Yost’s office identified seven items in the 45-page petition that were omitted from the summary, which were outlined in the written decision.

“Because these material provisions are not summarized, a potential signer would have to peruse at length the chapter to discern its character,” Yost said.

Explicitly identifying and expanding upon the seven deficiencies, Yost’s decision states the summary fails to:

  • Explain the extent of the Division of Cannabis Control’s rulemaking authority;
  • Explain the purposes of the cannabis social equity of jobs program;
  • Explain the “additional procedures and requirements the Division must follow in exercising its authority [regarding licensure];”
  • Explain that adults can legally cultivate and possess not more than six cannabis plants in total;
  • Identify “additional protections for individuals who engage in conduct permitted under the Act;”
  • Disclose that the Division is required to provide specific information to financial institutions; and
  • Explain the specific protections of an employer to establish hiring and employment policies.

Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol advocates collected 1,000 signatures as a requisite to submitting their initiative petition and summary language to the attorney general’s office on July 27.

The petition aims to replace “prohibition with a sensible framework for regulation and taxation,” Tom Haren, a spokesman for the coalition, told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary, adding that the proposed law would generate an estimated $400 million in new tax revenue. 

The coalition needed Yost’s approval to get the greenlight to collect the more than 130,000 signatures needed to send its proposed legislation to the Ohio Legislature, which would then have four months to consider the constitutional measure.

Should the coalition continue to pursue that path, organizers would have to revise their summary and resubmit it to meet the attorney general’s standards.

“In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost said. “For these reasons, I am unable to certify the summary as a fair and truthful statement of the proposed chapter. However, I must caution that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all defects in the submitted summary.

“Finally, I recommend that the petitioners carefully review and scrutinize the remainder of the summary to ensure that it accurately captures the proposed chapter’s definitions, contents and purport before it is resubmitted to this office.”

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