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State Officeholders Blast Marijuana Legalization Plans

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Ohio Public Radio
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Four state officeholders discussed their positions on various issues Thursday during an Associated Press forum.  The issue that drew the strongest opinions was the latest attempt to legalize marijuana.
Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

 

The Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer and Auditor were all asked what they thought about the new ballot issue to legalize pot in Ohio. And none of them—including Attorney General Mike DeWine pulled their punches.

“I’ll start. Stupid idea,” DeWine said.

DeWine pointed to the state of Colorado—which voted to legalize marijuana in 2012—and said there have been negative consequences. The attorney general said there’s an abundance of edible pot products there that are sending people to the hospital and have possibly led to at least two deaths.

Aside from his stance against the drug itself—DeWine explained his strong objection to the ballot petition language—specifically the part that would write into the constitution that there can only be 10 growing sites.

“I don’t see how any Ohioans can be in favor of creating a monopoly for a handful of people to make a bunch of money,” said DeWine.

The ballot initiative group known as ResponsibleOhio hasn’t revealed anything about its members, but it’s thought to have some wealthy backers. The statewide officeholders say a monopoly would benefit those backers if they own one of those 10 growing sites.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a worse idea than this one.”

That’s Secretary of State Jon Husted also pouncing on the ballot initiative.

“It is offensive to think that we would be asked to give a constitutional monopoly to the marijuana industry for a handful of individuals without the proper oversight and regulation to protect the people of Ohio,” Husted claimed.

A commission has been holding meetings to review and modernize the Ohio Constitution. Auditor Dave Yost is calling on that panel to look into this issue further and propose a new amendment that would block such initiatives that could create monopolies.

Yost says passing these proposals can be a slippery slope.

“What are we going to have next? Twelve monopolies for whorehouses in the 12 largest counties? It’s outrageous,” said Yost.

Aside from the ballot language—Treasurer Josh Mandel says the state already has a drug problem and legalizing marijuana won’t fix the crisis.

“Whether I’m in Bryan [in Williams] County, Marietta—whether I’m in Cleveland, Cincinnati—no matter where I am I keep hearing the same two things: ‘we can’t find young people who have the skills and can pass a drug test.’ So that’s already a problem. I think passing this as a constitutional amendment will only make the problem worse,” said Mandel.

But ResponsibleOhio fired back after the forum. Its spokesperson Lydia Bolander says the state is already wasting money in a failed attempt to prohibit the drug. She adds that their ballot initiative would create a well-regulated and transparent market.

When House and Senate leaders were asked about the amendment push, both sides—Republicans and Democrats—weren’t on-board with the idea.

ResponsibleOhio says it plans on unveiling the full amendment soon.

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