By Alan Johnson // The Columbus Dispatch
Ohioans could be voting on a marijuana ballot issue next year unlike any other in the country, involving 10 wealthy individuals who would essentially invest to obtain the right to grow and sell marijuana wholesale for personal use by residents 21 or older.
A group calling itself ResponsibleOhio said it will back an issue to “end marijuana prohibition” and “pursue a ballot initiative in 2015 to give voters the opportunity to let adults 21 and older use marijuana for medical and personal use.”
“Marijuana for medical and personal use should be a choice made by adults 21 and older in this state. We are going to end this failed prohibition,” said Lydia Bolander, spokeswoman for the campaign.
“Legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use means increased safety because we will regulate, tax and treat marijuana like alcohol,” Bolander said. “We will smother the black market and use the taxes generated to help local communities provide vital public services.
“We need to be compassionate and ensure patients receive the treatment they rightfully deserve. We will create jobs in the agricultural, wholesale and retail marketplace, and we will drive research at our universities and hospitals,” Bolander said.
Marijuana would be taxed, with the proceeds somehow distributed to government entities, the group said.
“We will take the steps that so many other states have taken to decriminalize marijuana so that we are no longer destroying lives and our law-enforcement officers are spending their time investigating and arresting the real criminals threatening our communities,” Bolander said.
“This is about safety, personal freedom, healthy choices, jobs and tax dollars for our communities.”
If approved, the proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution would establish a Marijuana Control Commission. The commission would operate much like the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which was set up after Ohioans approved a statewide issue in 2009 to allow four casinos to operate in the state, sources said.
The issue also would establish a network to provide tightly controlled use of marijuana for medical purposes. Other details were not available.
Several marijuana issues, including one that would allow cultivation and sale of hemp, have been proposed in recent years, but none has obtained enough signatures to make the statewide ballot. There are 23 states that allow some form of marijuana use, many for medicinal purposes.
Jon Allison, a Columbus attorney who represents the Drug Free Action Alliance, offered his personal opinion on the issue.
“If you put that creators of the Sopranos and Breaking Bad in the same room they couldn’t come up with a plot this far fetched. Perhaps the details will help clarify things but right now it sounds like 10 wannabe drug lords are going to ask Ohio voters to constitutionally protect their cartels and turf,” Allison said.
“That doesn’t sound like anything that could happen in the Ohio I have lived in for almost 50 years. I don’t even think the grass-roots medical marijuana true believers in this state will find this appealing,” Allison said.