Pubdate: Tue, 12 May 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Author: Laura A. Bischoff


Ohio Lawmaker Calls Ballot Initiative Bad Public Policy.

State lawmakers are discussing political strategies to blunt 
ResponsibleOhio as the campaign gets closer to putting a 
constitutional amendment before voters this fall to legalize 
marijuana for medical and recreational uses.

On Monday, state Rep. Mike Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, called on fellow 
lawmakers to urge voters to defeat the ResponsibleOhio proposal on 
the grounds that it's bad public policy to carve commercial interests 
into the state constitution.

"My sense is we need to start educating the public on this sooner 
rather than later because the supporters of this amendment are going 
to have a ton of money to spend and the opposition side will not. So 
I think we need to start now to outline what this is really all 
about," said Curtin, the former editor and associate publisher of the 
Columbus Dispatch.

Curtin said changes in marijuana policy should be done through state 
laws, not the constitution.

ResponsibleOhio is collecting the required 305,591 valid voter 
signatures to put its proposed constitutional amendment on the 
November ballot. The plan calls for naming 10 properties, owned by 
backers of ResponsibleOhio, as the only sites where marijuana could 
be manufactured in large indoor grow facilities.

"This amendment, if successful, would give 10 investors and their 
partners the constitutionally-guaranteed, exclusive right to 
commercially grow marijuana at 10 designated sites in the state, and 
the exclusive right to distribute this marijuana for sale to the 
public," Curtin wrote to his colleagues. "In short, this amendment 
would create a marijuana cartel in our state's foundational document."

Polls show overwhelming support for medical marijuana and just over a 
majority favor legalizing it for recreational purposes.

State Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Gallipolis, who has worked on opiate 
addiction issues, said lawmakers are likely to discuss other 
strategies and options. "I think it's something we'll discuss in the 
future. Honestly, I'm not sure where we'll end up on it."

Meanwhile, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters is forming a 
10-person task force to produce a "white paper" by midJune on the 
economic, health and public safety impacts of legalizing marijuana in Ohio.

The research is being funded by ResponsibleOhio, said Jon Benedict, a 
spokesman for the task force. He declined to disclose who, other than 
Deters and Youngstown State University economics researcher John 
Russo, is on the task force.

Deters said in a written statement: "I strongly believe we must have 
an honest and in-depth assessment of the positive and negative 
impacts that legalization can have, so that Ohioans can make an 
informed decision."

Jon Allison, a lobbyist for the Drug Free Action Alliance, scoffed at 
the idea that a task force funded by ResponsibleOhio would be able to 
produce a credible white paper in 30 days on such a complex subject. 
"White wash paper would be a more accurate description," he said.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday will consider whether 
another marijuana legalization proposal is a single issue. This plan, 
which does not have the political or financial clout as 
ResponsibleOhio, seeks to legalize marijuana and industrial hemp.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom