Legal pot backers in Ohio trickle out details of 2015 issue

Marijuana

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The marijuana legalization movement has arrived in Ohio with high-flying ambitions: making it the first state to move from a complete ban to complete legalization with a single vote.

ResponsibleOhio is one of two competing legalization campaigns pushing forward in the state. It released further elements of its plan this week, while again stopping short of unveiling the legal technicalities of a ballot measure planned for November. Other states where marijuana is now fully legal generally began by legalizing medical marijuana use first.

Campaign representative Chris Stock said the Ohio amendment will make marijuana legal for both medical and personal use for those over 21 years old, and set up checks and balances not unlike those that currently exist for alcoholic beverages.

“Marijuana in Ohio will be safe, controlled, tested and clearly labeled for medical and personal use,” Stock said in a statement. “Our plan will also create opportunities for Ohioans to own and operate retail stores and manufacturing facilities, which will create thousands of new jobs in an emerging market.”

Supporters say they envision a network of growers sending the product to designated testing facilities near Ohio colleges and universities for safety and potency screenings. The pot would then go to either not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries, retail outlets or to be infused into various consumer products.

In one proposal they said there would be five testing facilities; in another, “at least five.” Final language will also describe the locations of 10 “tightly regulated” wholesale growing locations, in a setup not unlike Ohio’s constitutionally proscribed casino locations.

Opponents call the lack of specifics shady and self-serving.

“Marijuana cartel backers continue to talk in vague, glowing terms while refusing to dignify the intelligence of Ohio voters by simply offering the specific details of their scheme,” said Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance. “We prefer to wait until they file their proposed constitutional amendment with the Attorney General before we fully illustrate the many ways this drug legalization scheme is bad for Ohio families and workers.”

According to a proposal outline released last week, ResponsibleOhio’s ballot issue will establish a 7-member Marijuana Control Commission. The members will be a licensed physician, a law enforcement officer, a lawyer, a patient advocate, an Ohio business owner or operator, an Ohio resident with experience in the marijuana industry, and a representative of the public who’s over 21.

This powerful commission will establish all the rules and regulations for licensing, sales, labeling, testing and safety. It would also establish civil penalties for violators and put in place a tracking system for all marijuana products, from germination and extraction to final sale, the group says.

A competing proposal for legal cannabis that a Cleveland-based group is pursuing for the 2016 ballot would allow individuals to legally grow and smoke marijuana in their homes without any reporting.

ResponsibleOhio’s preliminary proposal outline calls for a 15 percent flat tax on all revenue collected by growers, manufacturers and retailers. Proceeds of the tax would be divided: 55 percent would go to a municipal and township government stabilization fund; 30 percent to fund counties’ safety, health, economic development and infrastructure costs; and 15 percent would go to a “compassionate care” fund.

The compassionate care fund would pay for the expenses of the control commission; operating costs at nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries; mental health and addiction prevention programs; and marijuana research by public universities and nonprofits.

The group says the amendment would make it illegal to consume marijuana in public places, elementary and secondary schools, day-care centers and vehicles. Growing, manufacturing and retail sales would be prohibited within 1,000 feet of churches, libraries, playgrounds, schools and day-care centers.

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