Ohioans have had a rough time legalizing marijuana.
While other states were showing massive success with their recreational marijuana programs, including our neighboring rival Michigan, Ohio drug its proverbial feet to even bring the issue to the ballot. Now that it has reached the ballot and approved with a resounding "YES" from the Ohio public, lawmakers are seeking to change what Ohioans voted for post-passage with House Bill 86 (H.B. 86).
What is House Bill 86?
Almost one year ago, in February of 2023, House Bill 86 (H.B. 86) was introduced. HB 86's legal title is "Revise the Liquor Control Laws," and that was what it was designed for: it was introduced as a bill to change some of the laws around liquor, alcohol, and the punitive punishments that come with their misuse.
HB86 was exclusively about liquor laws for many months, until mid-November. If you remember from our last blog, mid-November was when Ohio had their pivotal vote for body autonomy (Issue 1) and recreational marijuana (Issue 2), both of which were approved by a strong majority of Ohioans.
This, of course, came after a special election in August which would have limited citizen-proposed issues to come to ballot. Recreational marijuana was brought to ballot by citizens; Ohioans vehemently rejected what this special election proposed, so Ohioans can have their issues brought to ballot.
With Issue 2, recreational weed, passed by the public, Ohio legislatures seized the moment to introduce legislation to curb what Issue 2 proposed, and did this by shoehorning this new legislation into something existing: House Bill 86.
What are Ohio Legislators Changing in House Bill 86?
House Bill 86, originally about Ohio liquor laws, is now permeated with wording about marijuana. But Ohio lawmakers are trying to change more than just the amount of plants you can grow (spoiler: they wanted you to be able to grow 0 plants), they're trying to change so much about what is considered legal, being able to enjoy cannabis will be as difficult for consumers as it will be for retailers.
Here are some highlights about what has been added to House Bill 86:
- Reduced Home Grow: The number of marijuana plants a person can legally grow has dwindled from 12 per household (or 6 per person) to 6 per household. It was 0 at one point!
- Public Smoking Restrictions: H.B. 86 permits smoking, vaping and combustion only within a private residence. The bill bans public smoking, bans smoking while in a vehicle, and allows landlords to prohibit smoking. Employers also have the right to establish and enforce a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy or zero-tolerance policy. (Fox 8)
- Increased Excise Tax: Taxes on recreational marijuana products will increase from 10% to 15%.
- Limited retail license holders: The bill caps the number of recreational marijuana dispensaries at 350 statewide, potentially limiting access and availability.
- Reduced potency: The bill lowers the legal THC limit for flower products from 35% to 25% and for extracts from 90% to 50%. This could affect product variety and consumer preferences.
- Prohibition on online sales: The bill prohibits online sales of recreational marijuana, restricting consumers to in-person purchases at dispensaries.
And these are just the top of the barrel changes. Don't be fooled by news sites that are reporting on only a few issues; the changes to H.B. 86 are numerous when it comes to marijuana, cannabis, and THC products.
Is House Bill 86 Even About Liquor Anymore?
With the updates to H.B. 86 since November, the bill has become essentially half Marijuana Control Laws, yet it still goes by its original proposed name. A vote "for" HB 86 will be against medical marijuana, but a vote "against" HB86 will be against liquor control. The Ohio legislatures should have done the right thing and kept bills to be single-issue and introduced new legislature for any control they wanted to propose over marijuana. But let's be honest: they should have done the right thing by leaving what Ohioans voted for alone.
What is the Status of Ohio House Bill 86?
House Bill 86 was revised and re-introduced to the floor on November 15th, 2023, not even one week after Ohioans voted "YES" for medical marijuana on November 7th. This revision included many updates to how marijuana and cannabis products will be controlled, some of which are mentioned above.
At the time of this article, the newly revised House Bill 86 has been approved by the Ohio Senate and has gone to the Ohio House of Representatives for approval.
Fortunately, this issue was brought to the attention of retailers, smokers, enthusiasts, and concerned citizens of Ohio. If you're subscribed to our newsletter or follow our social media platforms, you know we have been trying to spread the word that we need to contact our local Representatives and tell them to vote NO on House Hill 86. If you aren't following us, hit that follow button (in the social media app of your choice)!
We are urging all Ohio residents to reach out to their Representative and tell them to Vote NO on House Bill 86!
With a successful social campaign, enough Ohioans voiced their concerns to their Reps that the vote for approval had to be delayed until early next year citing "the amount of information and social outcry we have received."
But just because the vote has been delayed, that doesn't mean we can quit.
Please, contact your local Representative and Senator and tell them to vote NO on House Bill 86! Even though the Senate has already voted, that doesn't exempt them from having your voice heard.
Call, text, e-mail, or candygram your Rep to let them know how House Bill 86 is a large step backwards from what Ohioans voted for in November.
How Can I Contact my Ohio Representative?
Find your Senator and Representative and ways to contact them with this handy map from the Ohio legislature.
Don't feel like you need to limit yourself to contacting the Rep from where you're living now: find the Rep for your hometown and express your displeasure to them too!
The Ohio House of Representatives can re-convene as early as January 10th, but the House and Senate will both be back in session on January 24th.
Consider it your Christmas present to all of Ohio if you reach out to your Representative.
Not sure what to say? Here's a handy script to reference, or pass along:
As a member of your district, I’m calling you today to respectfully ask you to vote no on HB 86. A vote for HB 86 is a vote against hard working small businesses that sell federally legal products created from an agricultural commodity. Voting for HB 86 is voting against farmers, small businesses, and the American Dream while favoring monopolies that sell federally illegal marijuana. Regulations in Kentucky and Tennessee protect consumers while not overly restricting a thriving Hemp industry. Vote no on HB 86.
It's as easy as that. Please, secure the future of recreational marijuana in Ohio and let these legislators know it is NOT okay that they want to change what Ohioans have voted on.
We expressed our voices, and we're not about to let what we voted for be twisted by lawmakers.