(The Center Square) — Ohio voters embraced recreational marijuana on Tuesday, putting pressure on Pennsylvania as another neighbor legalizes adult use.
As The Center Square reported, marijuana will be legal for adults 21 years and older. Plants can also be grown at home starting in December. Advocates argued the change will bring in $200 million annually in tax revenue and be “a significant investment in economic development for some communities.”
Though voters approved, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and legislative Republicans were opposed to legalization; before the vote takes effect, lawmakers have the option to modify it, though they cannot veto it.
“I don’t think the little bit of money that this will generate to the state of Ohio is worth the damage to the people of Ohio,” DeWine said.
As Ohio becomes the 24th state to approve recreational marijuana, it means that much of Pennsylvania’s population is within easy driving distance of legal stores, though its still against the law to bring back it back across state lines.
“With four out of our five surrounding states already regulating cannabis, 50 percent of Pennsylvanians live in a county that borders a legal state,” Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition Executive Director Meredith Buettner said. “It is past time for the Pennsylvania legislature to join our neighbors and legalize cannabis to ensure safe access, right the wrongs of cannabis prohibition, and stop tax revenue from bleeding outside of the borders of the Commonwealth.”
West Virginia is the only state bordering Pennsylvania that has not legalized recreational use.
Though Republicans and Democrats in the commonwealth have supported legalization and anticipate it happening in a few years, opposition remains. Last week, a House committee hearing showed that significant concerns over the health risks of legalization and the difficulty of controlling illicit sales made some Republicans reluctant to support it.
Some academic studies have found that tax revenue increases with legalization, but so do social problems. Legalization has also come with hiccups; New Jersey has struggled to convert the illicit market into legal sales and New York has confiscated hundreds of pounds of marijuana products from unlicensed sellers.
Despite those difficulties, Gov. Josh Shapiro has included tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales in his projected budget and a number of legalization bills have been proposed in the General Assembly.
Ohio’s status as a former political swing state gone conservative has given legalization advocates hope for wins in other states.
“This is a great day for Ohio, which now joins the growing number of conservative-leaning states that have ended the injustice of cannabis prohibition,” Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “In the years ahead, more states will adopt legalization and further increase pressure on Congress to address the glaring conflicts between state and federal law regarding cannabis.”
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is the managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.