If an effort by a pro-marijuana group is successful, three of 10 proposed indoor marijuana farms would end up in Greater Cincinnati.
ResponsibleOhio, a group led by former Ohio casino advocate Ian James, is currently collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that seeks an amendment to the Ohio constitution to legalize the growth, sale and use of marijuana in the state. If the group collects the more than 300,000 signatures it needs by this summer, voters will decide on the proposed constitutional amendment in November.
The proposal would allow anyone over the age of 21 to buy and smoke marijuana but would limit marijuana cultivation to 10 sites around the state, including one in Hamilton County near Anderson Township, one in Butler County on land owned by Trenton-based Magnode Corporation and a third would be in Clermont County. The sites would not be subject to local zoning laws or agricultural regulations.
The initiative has been controversial. Conservative critics including Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine have said the proposal would create a state-mandated monopoly while increasing drug use. In a rare case of agreement, progressive groups pushing for marijuana legalization have also cried foul about the restricted growth sites.
“Responsible Ohio’s plan will benefit a few wealthy benefactors and allow the black market to continue to thrive, leaving the state with the same problems as before,” says Ohioans to End Prohibition Political Director Michael Revercomb-Hickman. OTEP is working to ready a similar ballot initiative for 2016 that would legalize growing marijuana outright.
But the group says legalization will make the drug safer and provide the state with tax revenue.
“At the top of the supply chain, you tightly regulate and control the raw materials,” says Cincinnati attorney Chris Stock, who helped draft ResponsibleOhio’s proposal. “Then you package and test those raw materials and send them out to processing facilities and retail establishments.”
ResponsibleOhio’s push has some big local funders, including former basketball star Oscar Robertson, philanthropist Barbara Gould, one-time Bengals player Frostee Rucker, venture capitalist Frank Wood, as well as seven other well-heeled investors from around the state. The state’s 10 grow sites would more than likely be owned by the group’s investors.
Those growers would supply marijuana to manufacturers who could use the crop in food products and other marijuana-based items. Growers could also distribute directly to retailers and nonprofit clinics that would distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes.
A seven-member Marijuana Control Commission would oversee and control the process.
Despite the restrictions on growers, ResponsibleOhio says its proposal will create plenty of room for entrepreneurs to make money. Anyone over the age of 21 without a criminal record could own a retail store, for example, through a process similar to getting a liquor license.
ResponsibleOhio says the seven-member oversight board could increase the number of growing locations in the future, though who would make up the board and how they would decide who can grow weed is unclear.