View a previous NBC4 report on Issue 2 in the video player above.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Legalizing recreational marijuana in Ohio would generate tax revenue to fund the “largest investment in the state’s history” dedicated to criminal justice and bail reform.

Passage of Issue 2 on Nov. 7 to allow adult-use cannabis would not, however, automatically erase the criminal records of those previously charged with marijuana offenses. Still, the initiated statute would use 36% of tax revenue to launch a social equity and jobs program dedicated to sentencing, bail and parole reform, along with record-sealing and expungement efforts.

“The money will be used to make direct investments into areas of the state that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition,” said Tom Haren, spokesperson for the pro-Issue 2 group Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “That chunk of money would be the largest investment in social equity causes in the state’s history.”

In addition, 3% of tax revenue would be dedicated to regulatory and administrative costs, 25% to addiction treatment and education, and another 36% to funding for communities home to marijuana dispensaries.

Those in Ohio who purchase cannabis would pay a 10% excise tax, the same rate as Michigan and Illinois, plus a 5.75% state tax, in addition to a local tax ranging from 0.25% to 2.25%. Some of the tax revenue would go toward equity and jobs programs, according to the proposed law’s text. Patients within the state’s medical marijuana program would not be subject to the tax.

Ohio’s rate could generate $182 million to $218 million during the first full year of operations, according to estimates from Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. By the fifth year, the state could collect $336 million to $403 million from an excise tax on marijuana.

However, opponents and Protect Ohio Workers and Families, the anti-Issue 2 coalition, argue legalization would not yield a positive economic impact given Ohio’s marijuana excise tax rate would be considerably lower compared to Washington’s rate of 37%, Virginia’s rate of 21% and Nevada’s and Colorado’s rate of 15%.

State Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) noted Ohio imposes a 33% rate for casinos and argued the social equity and jobs program is problematic since a third of funds would be funneled back into the recreational marijuana industry.

“Ten percent is very, very low and bit of a rip-off, frankly. There will be no economic impact,” said Romanchuk. “If we really wanted to help impacted communities, let’s help them get educated. Let’s help them with their housing needs and food needs. That’s what we do in the legislature and that’s what we should do here.”

While Issue 2 would not expunge criminal records, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law Senate Bill 288 earlier this year that streamlines the process to erase misdemeanor convictions, including low-level marijuana charges. Ohio is also home to 38 cities that have decriminalized marijuana through the Sensible Movement Coalition, removing the penalties for possessing less than 200 grams.

Ohio marijuana possession arrests are decreasing according to data provided to the FBI on an annual basis by the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The state noted 6,450 arrest incidents in 2021, 5,554 in 2020, 13,457 in 2019 and 18,335 in 2018.

Under Issue 2, adults could possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrate and grow up to six plants at home. The measure would also establish the Division of Cannabis Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce to oversee the compliance of the marijuana industry by regulating, investigating and penalizing cannabis operators and facilities.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Aug. 16 that the statute to legalize recreational marijuana would join an abortion rights constitutional amendment and local elections — such as Columbus’ election for mayor and city council — on the Nov. 7 ballot. 

Unlike the abortion rights amendment, Issue 2 will appear as an initiated statute — giving state lawmakers the final word. The governor does not have the authority to veto a proposal made law via the ballot, according to the Ohio Constitution, but legislators can still propose and pass modifications to the new law after the election.

Close to 59% percent of likely Ohio voters, responding to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll, said they would vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Only 6.6% were undecided, with 34.8% against the issue.

Voting by mail

Absentee ballot request forms must be delivered, either by mail or in person, to county boards of elections by 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 31. Print out an absentee ballot request form here.

Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6 and have until Nov. 13 to arrive at the boards of election. If dropping your ballot off in person, you have until 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7.

You do not need a photo ID to vote absentee.

Voting in person

Early in-person voting continues through Nov. 5 at county boards of elections:

  • Oct. 31: 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 1-3: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 4: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Nov. 5: 1 to 5 p.m.

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Anyone in line by 7:30 p.m. will be able to cast their ballots. The Franklin County Board of Elections recommends confirming your polling location by checking your voter record here or by calling 614-525-3100.

Ohio requires a form of photo identification to vote in person. Valid forms of photo ID include:

  • Ohio driver’s license
  • State of Ohio ID card
  • Interim ID form issued by the Ohio BMV
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • U.S. military ID card
  • Ohio National Guard ID card
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ID card

Learn more about State Issues 1 and 2 below.