Ohio Voters Approve State Issues 1 + 2

Kegler Brown Government Affairs Update

On Tuesday, Ohio voters approved an amendment to enshrine abortion and reproductive rights in the Ohio Constitution (Issue 1) and a state law that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana (Issue 2). Both measures were placed on the ballot through statewide petitions.

Unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State showed Issue 1 passing by a vote of 56.6 percent to 43.4 percent, expanding abortion and reproductive rights in Ohio just over a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision.

According to the ballot language, Issue 1 establishes in the state constitution “an individual right to one’s own reproductive medical treatment,” including making decisions on abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, and miscarriage care.

  • The amendment, titled "The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety," protects any person or entity that helps a patient receive reproductive medical treatment and prohibits the state from "directly or indirectly burdening, penalizing, or prohibiting abortion" before viability, generally considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The proposal allows the state to ban abortion only after viability, except when it is considered necessary to protect the life and health of the mother.
  • Fetal viability is defined in the amendment as "the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient's treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures."
  • Under the measure, the patient's physician is granted the authority to determine "on a case-by-case basis," whether the fetus is viable.

On Issue 2, data from the Ohio Secretary of State showed the ballot measure passing by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin of approval, making Ohio the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Issue 2 is an initiated statute. Unlike Issue 1, which amended the Ohio Constitution, Issue 2 amends state law, meaning the Ohio General Assembly may directly modify it through legislation. The new law legalizes the adult-use sale, purchase, and possession of cannabis for Ohioans who are 21 and older. It permits adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrate, and allows them to grow up to six plants at home.

  • Those purchasing cannabis in Ohio will pay a 10 percent excise tax under the measure, the same rate as Michigan and Illinois, in addition to a 5.75 percent state tax and local taxes that could range from 0.25 percent to 2.25 percent.
  • Patients within the state’s medical marijuana program are not subject to the tax.
  • According to the ballot language, some of the tax revenue would go to a newly established cannabis social equity and jobs program and require the Ohio Department of Development “to certify program applicants based on social and economic disadvantage.”
  • It also creates the Division of Cannabis Control within the Ohio Department of Commerce to oversee the compliance of the recreational marijuana industry by regulating, investigating and penalizing cannabis operators and facilities.

A study by the Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center estimates that the tax rates proposed in Issue 2 could generate between $182 million and $218 million during the first year of operations and between $336 million to $403 million by the program’s fifth year.