Ohio Votes Yes on Two Ballot Issues

Government Relations

Issue 1 Passes, Protecting Reproductive Rights

With a vote of 56.62% to 43.38%, Issue 1 has passed, enshrining the right of individuals to access reproductive healthcare in the state. The new amendment establishes “an individual right to one’s own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion.” It also creates legal protections for anyone who assists a person with receiving reproductive medical treatment. Additionally, the new amendment grants the treating physician the authority to determine, on a case-by-case basis, viability of the fetus, and grants exceptions for abortions at any stage of pregnancy to protect the health or life of the mother.

The new amendment will officially become part of the Ohio Constitution on Friday, December 8, 2023.

Advocates of Issue 1 began organizing in June of last year following the release of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the federal right to an abortion, leaving states free to legislate on abortion, including enacting total bans. Ohio was one of a number of states with so-called “trigger laws” in place – laws that restricted abortions beyond what was then allowed under federal law that would become effective immediately upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Ohio’s trigger law banned abortions after the point at which a fetal “heartbeat” could be detected – approximately 6 weeks of gestation. Though that law was in effect for a number of weeks in the summer, it was ultimately blocked by a state court judge.

With the amendment’s passage, Ohio’s abortion law will likely remain much as it is currently – legal up 22 weeks of gestation. The amendment allows the state to restrict abortions after fetal viability, defined 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,” unless an abortion “is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

While Ohio is now one of 25 states that allow legal abortions, this vote is likely not the end of the discussion, at least for legislators. After last night’s result, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said, “The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.”

Passage of Issue 2 Brings Legal Recreational Marijuana to Ohio

Ohioans have legalized recreational marijuana by a vote of 56.97% to 43.03%. Issue 2 enacts a new chapter of the Ohio Revised Code to regulate adult-use marijuana and allow adults 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower and 15 grams of extract. Included in the new law’s provisions are a preference for the state’s existing medical marijuana licensees to obtain new recreational licenses, enables local governments to decide whether to allow new dispensaries, and enacts a 10% tax on top of existing state and local sales taxes. The new chapter will become effective in 30 days, on Friday, December 8, 2023.

There is a big difference between the two issues – Issue 2 is an initiated statute, not a constitutional amendment. Once it becomes effective, the new statutes will be like any other statute – subject to amendment or even repeal by the General Assembly. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has already publicly stated that the new law has “problems in it that need to get addressed” and that he will “advocate for reviewing it, and repealing things or changing things that are in it.”

With this vote, marijuana is now fully legal in 24 states. Only 6 states continue to make it fully illegal, with the remaining 20 states allowing at least some forms of medicinal use.

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