Advocates Ramp Up Push for Marijuana Legalization

While the Ohio state government remains opposed to the legalization of marijuana, advocates are steadfast in their efforts to bring legal cannabis to the state this election year.  

Tom Haren, the campaign spokesman of The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said he believed that marijuana legalization is likely to come to Ohio.  

The state legislatures have until May 28 to pursue legalization. If the state does not pass legislation for marijuana legalization, then the coalition can then gather more signatures to take the measure directly to the ballot on November 8.  

Even if the legislation passes in Ohio, this does not guarantee that Baldwin Wallace will allow marijuana on campus. Currently, possession and use of marijuana on campus is prohibited.  

In an email, Baldwin Wallace’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Timeka Rashid, said the university is “studying the various facets of the issues and consulting with medical personnel to decide our approach should legalization occur.”  

Such legislation would, in all likelihood, not include the automatic legality of building recreational marijuana dispensaries in Berea. This decision would be made by Berea’s local government.  

Haren said that since Berea’s voter makeup is most likely not much different than the rest of Northeastern Ohio’s and polling shows the issue has bipartisan support, the local government would probably support the building of dispensaries.  

“I would think that Berea would follow a lot of other communities in supporting us,” Haren said.  

Republican Governor Mike DeWine has displayed a likelihood to veto legislation if passed by the state houses. In an interview with The Columbus Dispatch regarding marijuana legalization, DeWine said legalizing the substance would be a “mistake.”  

DeWine is not alone in his opposition. Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman vowed that he would not bring a legalization bill to the floor, and that legalization would only occur in Ohio via a ballot initiative. 

The coalition is still working to ensure that legalization occurs regardless of DeWine and his party’s objection. 

“We are still doing our best to work with members in the legislature, but if they don’t take action and invest in our proposal, we’re ready, capable, and willing of going to the ballot,” Haren said.  

Berea Municipal Court Judge Mark A. Comstock believes legalization is inevitable regardless of pushback by legislators.  

“It’s coming,” Comstock said. “Every state in the Union basically is confronting these issues and I think that it’s just coming along.” 

DeWine said the reason he believes legalization would be a mistake would be a from a culture shift among children. 

“I think you change the culture, and you send a signal to kids,” DeWine said. “If it’s legal, the message is, ‘it’s okay.’” 

Haren called DeWine’s reasoning “garbage.” 

“I think it’s been proven that that type of talking point is false,” Haren said. “We have 18 other states that have done this, the data has never shown an increase in adolescent or youth usage.”  

Comstock said it seems as though the younger generations are more likely to support marijuana legalization, and that not much change has yet occurred. 

Regarding the changing course of marijuana laws, Comstock said “it’s always been a minor misdemeanor”. Currently, the maximum punishment is $150 and court costs for the possession of marijuana. However, Comstock said that there used to be an automatic license suspension for possession, and marijuana paraphernalia was treated with a larger maximum sentence and fine than it is now. 

In order to achieve all of the goals of the coalition, Haren said more work would have to be done following the hypothetical passage of legislation.  

“We have to make sure that the adult use program gets set up, that licenses are issued, and that consumers have access,” Haren said. “The election is just the start.”