Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jan 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


A ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and create a forprofit 
industry was ripped yesterday by some of Ohio's top elected 
officials, who called it "outrageous" and a "stupid idea" to create a 
dangerous constitutional monopoly.

"I don't know (if) I've ever seen a worse idea than this," Secretary 
of State Jon Husted said at a Columbus forum sponsored by the Associated Press.

Auditor Dave Yost called it "outrageous we are creating business 
monopolies by ballot issues. ... What's next, 12 monopolies for 
whorehouses in the 12 largest counties?"

Four of the top five Republican nonjudicial officeholders - Gov. John 
Kasich was not there - slammed ResponsibleOhio's plan to give 10 
individuals or investor groups who fund the campaign exclusive rights 
to operate one of 10 businesses in the lucrative "growth and 
cultivation of marijuana and the extraction of cannabinoids." The 
goal is to put the issue to public vote this November.

Treasurer Josh Mandel joked that legalization would boost "the sale 
of Girl Scout cookies." But he said it would also worsen an existing 
jobmarket problem with prospective job applicants failing drug tests.

Two legislative leaders added their voices to the chorus of 
opposition later yesterday. President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said he 
has "grave concern ... with this new trend of people proposing things 
that give certain individuals constitutionally protected property 
rights. I'm really concerned about what that does for democracy."

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, likewise said he's 
not a fan of the initiative.

But Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, suggested the 
state should look into medical marijuana. "We have a lot of young 
people with medical problems. If this plant can help them, then I 
think we should consider it."

Attorney General Mike DeWine, speaking at the AP event, said bluntly, 
"This is a stupid idea."

"I don't see how anyone could be in favor of granting a monopoly to 
make money selling marijuana," he added.

DeWine and Husted are in unusual positions because they will have to 
deal with the proposal in their official capacities. DeWine will 
review the ballot language submitted to determine whether it is a 
fair summary of the proposed amendment. And Husted, as chairman of 
the Ohio Ballot Board, will help determine whether the proposal 
constitutes one or more issues.

ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Lydia Bolander responded to the comments, 
saying the "decision about whether to pass this amendment will be 
made by voters, not politicians."

"Let's stop kidding ourselves: Marijuana prohibition has failed. 
Ohioans are sick of wasting $120 million per year to enforce that 
failure and deny patients the medical marijuana that would ease their 
suffering. ResponsibleOhio's plan will create a tightly regulated, 
safe, open and transparent market, bringing much-needed revenue to 
our communities and creating thousands of jobs."

Under ResponsibleOhio's plan, tax revenue levied on marijuana sales 
is projected to reach tens of millions of dollars annually and would 
be distributed on a percapita basis. The plan would allocate 55 
percent to a municipal fund, 30 percent to a county fund and 15 
percent to a fund to pay for nonprofit medical marijuana 
dispensaries, addiction and treatment programs, and marijuana research.

Dispatch Reporter Jim Siegel contributed to this story.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom