Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jul 2016
Source: Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press
Author: Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press


(AP) - Apparently unconstitutional portions of Ohio's medical 
marijuana law, which set aside a percentage of the state's pot 
licenses for minorities, were spotted during legislative debate but 
left in the bill to gain needed votes, a key lawmaker says.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, said legally prickly 
provisions exposed by The Associated Press in June may require 
changes. The law takes effect Sept. 8, at which point a new panel 
will begin laying out a blueprint for how the new industry will work.

"I certainly think it's something the (Medical) Marijuana Advisory 
Committee ought to take a look at," Seitz said. "Because we're not 
just talking about government contracts, but government licenses." 
Changes may wind up in a marijuana corrective bill that emerges in 
the lame duck session.

The benchmarks are contained in legislation that was fast-tracked by 
the Republican-controlled Legislature to head off a medical marijuana 
proposal that was on its way to Ohio's fall ballot. Ohio is the 25th 
state to legalize medicinal cannabis.

They require at least 15 percent of Ohio's cultivator, processor, 
retail dispensary and laboratory licenses to go to the businesses of 
one of four economically disadvantaged minority groups - blacks, 
Hispanics, Asians or Native Americans - so long as an adequate number apply.

Minority Democrats sought the provisions. State Rep. Dan Ramos, a 
Latino Democrat from Lorain who offered the proposal, told the AP 
last month that he and members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus 
felt it was important to assure minority communities 
disproportionately punished under existing marijuana laws some 
benefit when medical marijuana was legalized.

However, such racial preference rules - even if well-intended - are a 
violation of the U.S. Constitution and have generally failed to stand 
up in court, the AP reported citing legal scholars.

Legislators of both parties in both the Ohio House and Senate said at 
the time they were unaware of this, but Seitz said he brought it to 
people's attention at the time.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom