Smoking marijuana is banned in indoor public places or places of employment by the state’s indoor smoking ban, a law approved by Ohioans at the ballot box in 2006 — the most recent initiated statute to go into law before Tuesday’s recreational marijuana victory.
“Anywhere that you can’t smoke tobacco under that law, you also cannot smoke marijuana,” said Tom Haren, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the organization that ushered Issue 2 onto the ballot and vouched for its passage.
There are provisions in Issue 2 banning Ohioans from using marijuana in outdoor public spaces or in vehicles.
“Again, sort of like alcohol, you can’t drink a beer walking down the street, so you can’t consume marijuana walking down the street either,” he said.
Of-age Ohioans who consume in prohibited areas run the risk of getting a minor misdemeanor, as Issue 2 currently reads.
However, Issue 2 also explicitly notes that it does not require nor prohibit “any public place from accommodating an individual’s use of adult use cannabis,” — a set of provisions that attorney Rob Scott, clerk for Kettering Municipal Court and former city council member, said will give local governments the ability to set their own public-consumption rules.
“That allows for a local government to do exactly what they’ve done with alcohol and the DORA provisions,” said Scott, who noted that Ohio is a “home rule” state that gives local governments additional autonomy by default.
DORA, or Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas, came about in 2015 when the Ohio legislature altered the state’s existing laws regulating alcohol consumption to allow local governments to set specific areas where people of-age could drink in public, outdoor spaces.
Haren said those provisions were put into Issue 2 merely to note that the law will not supersede pre-existing, status quo laws like Ohio’s indoor smoking ban.
Even after all details of legality — and local governments’ options — are made clear, enforcement of the new law could have varying challenges. If a person is walking down the street smoking marijuana, police likely can see it and smell it. But if that same person is in public eating a cannabis-infused edible, they may be indistinguishable from someone chewing gum.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office did not respond Thursday to questions about what enforcement guidance will be given to local law enforcement agencies.
The law is also subject to change, as the Ohio General Assembly has the power to repeal or amend it.