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One lawmaker wary of some proposed Issue 2 tweaks: 'We need people who are involved'

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Ohio Senate leaders have said they should be able to find common ground on modifications to Issue 2, which legalizes adult-use recreational marijuana, but one House lawmaker is wary of some of the potential changes being proposed.

Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) said she believes Ohioans already within the marijuana industry or those who want to be, including residents once incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes, should be more included in the conversations the legislature is having as it considers tweaks to the initiated statute.

“If you’ve been criminalized by cannabis, the best thing you can do is come back into the field,” she said in an interview.

One of her priorities, she said, is seeing that the legislature outlines a more defined pathway to recreational marijuana jobs—including through the social equity program in Issue 2 that would benefit Ohioans who are deemed socially and economically disadvantaged.

Under the current language, 72% of tax revenue coming from the state’s eventual cannabis program will be divided equally between the social equity and jobs program fund and a fund for communities with dispensaries. Another quarter will go to addiction treatment, and 3% to administrative costs, according to the statute.

But those distribution levels could change before the initiated statute takes effect. Both House and Senate legislative leaders have indicated modifying the taxes involved is on the table.

“Ohioans have to remember that the people who are trying to be the loudest at the Statehouse are people who were anti-cannabis,” Brent said. “We cannot have anti-cannabis people leading on what's going to happen with cannabis. We need people who are involved. We need people who have been doing the work. We need people who have been advocating.”

Senators are planning to put forward a package of policy changes, Senate President Matt Huffman said last Wednesday, although he didn’t give details on the exact proposals or a timeline for it—just that it would be on one quicker than standard legislation so that it comes before the effective date for Issue 2.

The Ohio Department of Commerce, which is set to oversee the program, has nine months after Dec. 7 to begin issuing licenses, meaning the state won’t be all-out legal for some time.



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