Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jun 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Author: Laura A. Bischoff


Lawmakers Move to Block Pot Legalization Plan Even If It Passes.

State lawmakers are taking steps to block groups from installing 
private property rights in the Ohio Constitution - much like the 
casino owners did and the advocates for legalizing marijuana want to 
do this fall - and legal experts are predicting that the move will 
invite legal challenges.

The Ohio House is expected to vote as early as next week and the 
Senate soon after on a resolution to put a constitutional amendment 
on the November ballot. If Ohio voters approve the amendment,it would 
block the marijuana legalization plan that is expected to also be on 
the ballot - even if voters say yes to legal marijuana,according to 
the resolution.

ResponsibleOhio,a group of deep pocketed investors and political 
consultants, is now gathering 305,591 valid voter signatures for a 
constitutional amendment to legalize medical and recreational 
marijuana and name 10 sites controlled by its investors as the only 
places where pot could be manufactured. The investors are funding the 
campaign,which is expected to cost $25 million.

ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said in a written 
statement: "These politicians trusted the voters enough to elect 
them,but when faced with an issue they disagree with, lawmakers want 
to deny voters the right to decide. No other state has done this; no 
other state has passed a constitutional amendment to limit voters' 
rights. In this zealous attempt to stop marijuana 
legalization,lawmakers are also leading an unenviable effort that 
will protect drug dealers and the black market. Unlike Statehouse 
lawmakers,we trust voters. We urge the legislature to let the voters 
decide. Let people vote."

The House amendment would prohibit the creation of a monopoly or 
special interest,benefit or license for an individual,group or 
business that isn't otherwise made available to similarly situated 
entities. A business interest could get an exemption by asking voters 
to grant an exception and then going back to the voters for approval 
for its constitutional amendment. The House proposed language also 
says that if voters approve a constitutional amendment on Nov. 3,2015 
that conflicts with the House plan,"that entire constitutional 
amendment shall not take effect."

"If both measures were to pass,I would anticipate that the matter 
would be litigated and ultimately decided by the courts," said Dan 
Tierney,spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Doug Berman,an Ohio State University law professor who teaches a 
course on marijuana law and public policy,said he believes if both 
pass,there will be lots of litigation over which would take effect 
and whether making it more difficult for certain groups to propose a 
constitutional amendment would be upheld by the courts.

"Yes,we're going to get litigation. Yes,we're going to get confusion. 
Yes, we're going to get challenges of all sorts. But these are 
important conversations to be having - both about the substance of 
should we reform our marijuana laws at all and what is arguably the 
best way to go about doing that?" Berman said. "And good,bad or 
indifferent, that's the conversation we are all now having. Again, 
what I would say is it's a shame the Legislature wasn't having this 
conversation a year ago because then it could be an orderly,sensible 
statutory conversation,rather than what has now become a seemingly 
disorderly, noisy,throw a bunch of ideas at the wall and see what 
sticks conversation. But I guess democracy is often messy."

ResponsibleOhio's plan calls for allowing adults ages 21 and older to 
possess up to one ounce of marijuana and home grown up to four mature 
plants,naming 10 manufacturing sites where roughly 538,000 pounds of 
pot would be produced each year,allowing local voters to approve 
opening retail stores in their areas and establishing a regulatory 
commission to oversee the industry. Tax revenues from marijuana 
production and sales would be split between local and state governments.

Although marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law,23 states 
allow for medical marijuana and four of those plus the District of 
Columbia allow for recreational use of weed.

State political leaders, including House Speaker Cliff 
Rosenberger,Gov. John Kasich,Secretary of State Jon Husted,Attorney 
General Mike DeWine and Auditor Dave Yost,oppose ResponsibleOhio's plan.

Senate President Keith Faber,R-Celina,said lawmakers want to stop 
entities from installing private property rights into the state 
constitution, such as naming locations for growing marijuana or 
building casinos.

"All of those things are bad long-term public policy for Ohio. It's 
allowing people who have a lot of money to try to buy the 
constitution. We think it's wrong. We're going to try to take a look 
at that," Faber said.

The casinos would not be impacted by the November 2015 amendments.

The resolution,which began hearings in the House Government 
Accountability and Oversight Committee,must get a three-fifths 
majority vote in both the House and Senate by early August to make 
the November ballot.

Berman said the conservative Ohio General Assembly has largely 
ignored the fast-moving issue of marijuana reform, even after 
ResponsibleOhio debuted its plans six months ago. If lawmakers had 
adopted a medical marijuana bill months ago,it likely would have 
blunted ResponsibleOhio's plans,he said.

"If the General Assembly thinks this is going to somehow stop the 
robust nationwide or local conversation about marijuana 
reform,they're the ones smoking it. All it's going to do is delay it 
and divert it," Berman said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom