By Scott Bland
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Ohio voters have approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, making it the 24th state to embrace legalization in a push that’s expanding into more conservative parts of the country.
The "yes" vote on Issue 2 means people age 21 and over in the state will be able to use, grow or sell marijuana under a regulation-and-tax program imposed by the state. The measure takes effect in 30 days. Supporters of the measure campaigned on the premise of regulating marijuana "like alcohol."
Medical marijuana has been legal in Ohio since 2016, as it is in more than three dozen states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But the ballot measure in Ohio is part of a steady advance toward legalizing recreational use of the drug.
Efforts are underway to place recreational marijuana ballot measures before voters in 2024 in Florida, Nebraska, South Dakota and other states. An effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma failed this year.
Opponents of the Ohio measure aired ads that said there would be nothing stopping marijuana sellers from marketing edibles to children as candy, featuring law enforcement officers decrying the proposed legalization. But the measure passed anyway.
Possessing marijuana is still a federal crime, but President Joe Biden has announced pardons for prior offenses of simple marijuana possession, and the Justice Department is taking a hands-off approach in states that have legalized its use.
The Department of Health and Human Services also recently recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration "reschedule" marijuana, reducing restrictions on its use.