Pubdate: Sun, 23 Aug 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Authors: Laura A. Bischoff and Lauren Stephenson


State Voters Consider Tax Revenues, Addiction Issues and Monopolies.

COLUMBUS- University of Dayton junior George Cleary said he didn't 
vote in the last presidential election or last year's election but 
will vote this year because marijuana legalization is on the ballot.

"I think it should pass not only for the taxes but for the government 
- - what they'll be able to make and put back into the system," he said.

ResponsibleOhio, the group of deep-pocket investors and savvy 
political consultants that succeeded in getting pot legalization on 
the November ballot, is counting on young people like Cleary - an 
inconsistent voting group in past elections - to turn out in numbers 
that help push the issue over the top.

But not all young Ohioans are getting behind Issue 3.

"It is a gateway drug, no matter what anybody says. It is, and so is 
alcohol," said Savannah Sines, 25, of Zanesville, who is currently in 
treatment for an opiate addiction. "It's very easy to get caught up 
in a crowd and just go downhill from there. That's how I started."

It's too early to know which side in this epic struggle will win out, 
but this much is certain: A full year before Ohio dons its 
swing-state pants in a presidential election, it is being watched by 
people from one end of the country to the other.

The reason is the nature of the pot amendment itself.

If voters pass Issue 3 this fall, Ohio will be the nation's most 
populous state to fully legalize marijuana, the first to go directly 
to full legalization and the only one to anoint 10 investor groups as 
the only authorized commercial growers for what could blossom into a 
multibillion-dollar industry.

ResponsibleOhio and its backers will pump millions into an 
advertising campaign that will try to convince Ohioans that 
legalization will lead to more jobs, better health and less crime. 
The opponents haven't revealed any millions they plan to spend on the 
campaign but will get their counter arguments out one way or another. 
The Republican legislature already put Issue 2 on the ballot, which 
they say could nullify even a positive vote for legalization.

Curt Steiner, who is coordinating the No on Issue 3 effort, says the 
pot amendment would be a disaster for the state.

"What is really radical is going kind of from zero to 100 all at once 
here in Ohio," he said. "This thing is going straight into the 
constitution if it passes, allowing no input from the legislature as 
it goes through. It turns the place upside down."

Chris Kershner, vice president of public policy and economic 
development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the 
amendment is bad policy for the state and would put employers in a 
tough spot because they would have to make accommodations for workers 
with doctorissued medical marijuana cards.

"What does that do to the employer's drug-free workplace policy?" he 
said. "Now they're constitutionally obligated to have to allow an 
employee to use marijuana on the job. If they decide to uphold their 
drug-free workplace policy, they're in violation of the constitution."

Dramatic change

ResponsibleOhio's plan represents the most dramatic changes to Ohio's 
drug laws in decades.

Issue 3 would name the 10 investor properties as the only commercial 
grow sites, require the governor to appoint a seven-member control 
commission to regulate the industry, set up six testing facilities, 
allow for the creation of pot product manufacturers and issue more 
than 1,100 retail licenses.

Adults ages 21 and older would be allowed to buy up to one ounce, 
home grow up to four flowering plants and possess as much as eight 
ounces of home-grown pot.

Brice Keller, a Dayton area criminal defense attorney, calls Issue 3 
"an excellent first play for Ohio" and said nationwide legalization 
of marijuana is inevitable.

"The limited commercial market with a robust home grow and all these 
opportunities for retail licenses ... - that's pretty great," he 
said. "And with the manufacturing opportunities, we're set up to be 
the leader in the industry if ResponsibleOhio goes through."

Meanwhile, the full-throttled opposition is making for some strange 
bedfellows. Conservative Republican officeholders like Jon Husted and 
Mike DeWine, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and health care 
associations are lined up against Issue 3 with long-time advocates 
for marijuana legalization.

Columbus area resident Michael Revercomb has been pushing for legal 
weed for nearly a decade, but the idea of authorizing just 10 growers 
is a deal killer for him.

"I'm voting no in November. I never thought I'd say that," said 
Revercomb. "It's just the basic concept that we'll install an 
oligopoly into our constitution. And that's not even a marijuana 
issue. It's just something we shouldn't be doing."

Revercomb said he prefers a system that allows any entrepreneur to 
get into the marijuana cultivation business - a structure that he 
believes would bring more competition, lower prices and higher 
quality. The 10 growers are expected to eventually ramp up to grow 
538,000 pounds per year, which amounts to about one ounce for each 
Ohio adult age 21 or older.

"We'll be theWal-Mart of weed. That's what we'll be," he said of the 
10 mega-grow sites. "And I don't mean that in a good way."

Other states

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws 
that make marijuana legal in some form, but only four states - 
Alaska, Colorado, Oregon andWashington - have legalized marijuana for 
recreational use and none of those four did it without first 
legalizing medical marijuana.

But in many respects, Ohio's plan for recreational marijuana 
resembles what the other four states are doing: participation is 
limited to ages 21 and older; the state regulates the industry; the 
product is taxed; and public use is prohibited.

Here is a rundown of the recreational pot essentials in the other states:

Alaska: Voters approved legalization in November 2014 and it took 
effect Feb. 24, 2015; marijuana business licenses are expected to be 
issued by May 2016; home grow is limited to six plants, including 
three mature; adults can purchase up to one ounce and any amount 
produced through personal cultivation; the product is taxed $50 per 
ounce at wholesale.

Colorado: Voters approved legalization in November 2012 and existing 
medical marijuana businesses started applying for recreational 
licenses in October 2013 while newcomers started applying in July 
2014; the first recreational retail shops opened Jan. 1, 2014; adults 
are allowed to purchase one ounce and possess as much as they grow at 
home; home grow is limited to six plants, including three mature; 
there are no limits on the number of licenses; marijuana businesses 
pay regular sales taxes, plus an additional 15 percent excise and 10 
percent special sales taxes.

Oregon: Voters approved legalization in November 2014 and it took 
effect July 1, 2015; businesses are expected to open in January 2016; 
home grow is limited to four plants; adults can have up to eight 
ounces at home, one ounce in public, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused 
solids and 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids; the product is taxed per 
ounce - $35 on marijuana flowers, $10 on leaves, $5 per immature 
plant and the state has authority to impose a sales tax.

Washington: Voters approved legalization in November 2012 and the 
first retail shops opened in July 2014; no home grow allowed; adults 
can purchase up to one ounce of pot, a pound of pot-infused solids 
and 72 ounces of marijuana infused liquids; statewide, total 
cultivation is capped at 2 million square feet and retail shops are 
limited to 334; and the product is taxed at 25 percent at each level of sale.

In addition to establishing a medical marijuana program first, the 
four states also have something else in common that won't be possible 
for Ohio: Each expanded their program in either a presidential or 
gubernatorial election year, when turnout is traditionally higher.

Two views

If nothing else, the pot issue has young Ohioans talking about an 
election - and about voting - for the first time since at least the 
last presidential election.

UD junior Matt Koval said he will vote yes on Issue 3, though he 
admitted he didn't know much about the amendment other than that it 
would legalize recreational marijuana.

"I'm not really into politics so I wasn't necessarily going to vote," 
he said. "But with this, I'm definitely going to go and vote."

Koval, who wrote a position paper on legalizing marijuana in high 
school, said he equates a ban on marijuana to alcohol prohibition. 
"If you make it legal, I don't think you'd see as many people like 
doing it. Now I think people do it because it is illegal, you know, 
that thrill of doing it."

But aspects of the ResponsibleOhio proposal concern fellow UD junior 
Colleen McDaniel, who doesn't think the number of grow sites should be limited.

"In any capitalist society, I mean, it's kind of a problem when only 
a few businesses run the market," she said.

McDaniel said young voters probably won't pay attention to the 
details of the amendment.

"I think we're a generation that's much more accepting of it and a 
lot more open to it," she said. "So I think generally young people 
would probably be in favor of it and kind of overlook that side issue 
and say, 'As long as it's legal.'"
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom