Ohio has spoken – recreational marijuana is now legal.
On November 7, 2023, voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 2, a ballot measure that legalizes the possession, use, and cultivation of adult-use cannabis. This marks a significant shift in Ohio’s approach to marijuana policy, aligning the Buckeye state with the growing trend of cannabis reform across the nation.
Once the initial excitement subsides, Ohioans should try to understand the implications of this new law and the steps they need to take to ensure their rights are protected. This is especially important if you have a pending criminal charge related to marijuana possession or a prior conviction that’s been restricting your job searches,
Luftman, Heck & Associates is a leading criminal defense firm in Columbus, Ohio, and provides comprehensive legal counsel to those navigating Ohio’s newly legalized recreational marijuana landscape and other drug-related charges.
The Basics of Issue 2 & Recreational Marijuana
First off, it’s not in effect yet. The measure does not go into effect until 30 days after the election. Also, state legislators may revisit and modify the language of the law. But once it goes into effect, Issue 2 will officially legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio.
Here are the key provisions:
- Possession and Use of Marijuana: Adults aged 21 and over can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of cannabis concentrate.
- Home Marijuana Cultivation: Homegrown marijuana cultivation is permitted, with a limit of 6 plants per individual and no more than 12 plants per household.
- Commercial Marijuana Sale: Commercial sale of cannabis is authorized, subject to a regulatory framework that oversees cultivators, processors, and dispensaries.
- Local Cannabis Control: Local jurisdictions retain the authority to limit or prohibit the operation of cannabis establishments within their boundaries.
- Marijuana Tax Revenue: Tax revenue generated from cannabis sales will fund administrative costs, substance abuse programs, and other community projects.
What’s Next for Cannabis in Ohio?
With the passage of Issue 2, significant legal changes are coming. Here’s what you need to know:
- Prior Convictions: The legalization of recreational marijuana does not apply retroactively. Individuals with prior marijuana-related convictions will not automatically have their records expunged.
- Driving Under the Influence: Driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal. The legal threshold for “impairment” is an evolving issue and one that may demand challenges to ensure fair enforcement.
- Law Enforcement Authority: The extent to which law enforcement’s ability to seize persons and conduct searches may be affected by the new law remains to be litigated.
Marijuana Employment Considerations
While recreational marijuana is now legal in Ohio, employers still have the right to enforce drug-free workplace policies and can discipline employees who test positive for marijuana, even if the use occurs off-duty.
Since marijuana remains illegal under federal law, Ohioans employed in federal positions or those subject to federal regulations (like Department of Transportation rules) must abide by the stricter federal standards.
Expunging Marijuana Convictions
Issue 2 recognizes the tremendous and disproportionate negative impact that previous marijuana laws have had on minority communities. It calls for a process to facilitate the expungement of certain marijuana-related offenses and offers support for individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by previous marijuana laws. However, that system has yet to be enacted.
The current expungement system was put in place after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law earlier this year that makes it easier to expunge misdemeanor convictions. This includes low-level marijuana possession charges.
An application for expungement can be filed six months from final release for minor misdemeanors and one year from final releases for all other misdemeanors.
Navigating the New Cannabis Business Landscape
For businesses seeking entry into the newly legal cannabis market, the regulatory landscape will be complex and competitive. Remember that medical dispensaries have been I operating for years in Ohio. Obtaining the necessary licenses and complying with state regulations will require sound legal counsel to navigate the intricacies of the new regulatory framework.
It’s Best to Remain Cautious about Legal Marijuana
Despite its recent legalization and obvious enthusiasm from users and potential businesses, there are still legal complexities that could affect individuals with pending marijuana charges. Disputes over the interpretation and implementation of the new law, challenges to old convictions, and the potential for legal challenges to the law itself could leave the outcome of your case uncertain.
So even if your marijuana arrest or conviction happened prior to Issue 2 passing, you’re always best served by treating the matter seriously and consulting an experienced criminal defense. They can evaluate the circumstances of your case, how the passage of Issue 2 could impact your case, and the best way to move forward.
Ohio’s New Era of Regulated Marijuana Use
Ohio’s legalization of recreational marijuana marks a significant step forward. As the law transitions, Luftman, Heck & Associates is committed to providing those in Central Ohio with the comprehensive legal guidance they need.
If you have a pending drug charge in or around Columbus, Ohio or are interested in expungement, call LHA today at (614) 350-2115 or submit a request online. We’re available 24/7 and have assisted countless people in situations like yours.