Pubdate: Fri, 27 Nov 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


The big crowd at Donald Trump's presidential campaign rally in 
Columbus this week was dotted with people carrying clipboards with 
green marijuana leaves on the back, quietly collecting signatures for 
pot legalization.

Ohio will ring in the New Year with a crop of renewed pot proposals, 
including two potential constitutional amendments and state 
medical-marijuana legislation.

All of this is on tap during a heated presidential campaign year.

The group gathering signatures at the Trump rally was LegalizeOhio, 
the name used by Ohioans to End Prohibition, which proposes 
legalizing marijuana and hemp, a plant from the same family that's 
used to produce oil, fiber and other products.

The pot campaign is not connected to Trump's presidential bid but 
used the occasion to collect signatures from the crowd of more than 10,000.

Sri Kavuru, president of Ohioans to End Prohibition, said his group 
began collecting names for a 2016 ballot issue as soon as it was 
approved by the Ohio Ballot Board in June. Kavuru's troops paused to 
oppose State Issue 3, the for-profit marijuana legalization campaign 
by ResponsibleOhio, which was voted down by Ohio voters by a nearly 
2-1 margin in the Nov. 3 election.

Now Kavuru's team is back at work. He said is confident the campaign 
will gather the 305,591 valid signatures of registered voters 
necessary to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

LegalizeOhio's proposal is significantly different from 
ResponsibleOhio's original plan, which called for limiting commercial 
growers to 10 preselected investment groups and requiring a $50 
license for homegrowing marijuana.

However, a revised ResponsibleOhio plan that's in the works scraps 
the monopoly in favor of a "free-market approach," requires no 
license for marijuana grown at home and allows farmers to grow hemp crops.

Kavuru said his group's proposal "is exactly the law ResponsibleOhio 
is now writing. We've already done it. We've already put it together."

Key elements of LegalizeOhio's plan:

Ohioans 21 or older could have 100 grams of marijuana, 500 grams of 
marijuana-infused solids, 2 liters of marijuanainfused liquids and 25 
grams of marijuana concentrates.

Adults could grow six flowering marijuana plants at home in a "secure 
area of their property away from public view" without a permit or inspections.

Marijuana sales would be regulated by a new division of the Ohio 
Department of Commerce.

A new medical-marijuana program would be regulated by the Ohio 
Department of Health.

The hemp program would be overseen by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Marijuana sales would be taxed, with revenue earmarked for county, 
municipal and township governments, Ohio's public-pension systems, 
schools, drug education, drug treatment and research.

Kavuru said the fact that voters soundly rejected ResponsibleOhio 
doesn't mean they oppose marijuana legalization. He said it was clear 
that they opposed the marijuana-monopoly plan.

"It was a bad law, a bad plan that was ridiculed nationally," he 
said. "I don't think it was the last word on legalization."

Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, said in a recent 
open letter: "We quite publicly stumbled and fell. In picking 
ourselves up, we remained fully aware that Ohio continues a failed 
marijuana prohibition that a majority of Ohioans wish to end."

Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, which gathered a diverse 
coalition to oppose State Issue 3, remains opposed to marijuana legalization.

Meanwhile, as LegalizeOhio and ResponsibleOhio are drafting their 
game plans, leaders in the General Assembly are staking out the 
first-ever widely supported medical-marijuana proposal. Speaker Cliff 
Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, said the legislature will involve medical 
professionals and might pass medicalmarijuana laws and a pilot 
project next year.

But the Ohio State Medical Association thinks the time isn't yet 
right for medical-marijuana legislation because not enough clinical 
research has been done to justify state action.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom