WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is one of the few officials to publicly come out in support of Ohio’s Issue 2. His “yes” vote marks a societal and political shift toward acceptance of legalized cannabis.
Passage of Issue 2 would allow adults ages 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrate and up to six plants at home.
The to vote for the measure represents a change of heart for Brown, who has been wary of legalizing recreational cannabis since at least 2015, when Ohio voters rejected a similar ballot measure. At the time, he cited concerns that children would get access to cannabis.
As recently as September, the senator said he was undecided on Issue 2.
Brown announced late last week that he and his wife had voted early and had voted for both Issue 1, which would enshrine abortion rights, and Issue 2.
“It was a hard decision,” Brown said. “My wife and I spent a lot of time talking about it. We talked about exposure to for young people. We've talked about a whole lot of things in the end.”
Brown said his decision ultimately boiled down to safety for users, sellers and the general public.
“We voted to legalize because we thought overall regulation—legalization and regulation of marijuana use—the public would be safer doing it that way.”
Brown is also instrumental in legislation to keep cannabis industry workers safe.
Federal law currently prohibits most banks and credit card companies from doing business with cannabis companies. As a result, cannabis companies generally rely on cash transactions, which leaves staff and customers vulnerable to crime.
The Secure And Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act [SAFER Banking Act] would give those companies access to basic banking services.
“Some [union] members are concerned about their safety because they're handling cash, because they can't use credit cards, because they can't get bank accounts,” he said.
Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, has remained silent on Issue 2 and did not respond to a request for comment on it.
The Ohio Republican Party has urged voters against approving Issue 2, while the Ohio Democratic Party has not publicly endorsed or opposed it.
Sixty-five percent of Ohio voters support legalizing recreational marijuana, according to a poll by Ohio Northern University.