Students stage walkouts over gun laws; Ohio won't pause medicinal marijuana licensing despite snags in the process

Despite scoring errors by an employee weighing applications and other hiccups, Ohio Auditor David Yost says it’s too late for the state to pause the process that awarded 24 businesses medicinal marijuana licenses

Hello all. It is, somehow, by some mysterious alignment of the stars, both National Margarita Day and National Chili Day. God help us all. If you need direction on where to go to get your downtown margarita on, well, my intrepid coworkers blazed that trail for you yesterday. Check out the story here.

On to news. Cincinnati Public Schools last night held another public forum on FC Cincinnati’s proposal that would swap land with the district so it can build a privately-financed $200 million soccer stadium on the current site of Stargel Stadium near Taft High School in the West End. The team would then build a new Stargel Stadium on vacant land south of the current stadium.

Last night’s meeting saw many of the same concerns raised by residents about displacement, rising rents, traffic, noise and other issues. We’ve covered those concerns in previous stories, including this week’s news feature. The meeting also saw some supporters of the team’s bid to build in the West End, something that hasn’t happened in past meetings. Read more in our story here.

• A national march organized by activists and survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida will get a local iteration. March for Our Lives, scheduled for March 24 in Washington, D.C., has seen a number of local versions pop up in cities across the country, including Cincinnati. The march seeks to pressure politicians to enact new, more stringent gun laws in the wake of numerous mass shootings, including the deadly rampage undertaken by Nikolas Cruz at a high school in Florida. Cruz, who had a history of behavioral issues that slipped past law enforcement authorities, killed 17 people with a legally obtained AR-15 rifle Feb. 14 at his former high school. The Cincinnati march will convene at a to-be-determined downtown location and proceed to the office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. The Republican senator has been a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights and has received more than $3 million in campaign support from the National Rifle Association since 1990.

• Some local students didn’t wait for the march to register their concern around the nation’s gun laws. Students at Walnut Hills and at least two other area schools staged a walk out yesterday to protest for stricter gun legislation, and Lakota Public Schools students wrote letters to survivors of the Parkland tragedy. Walkouts also occurred at several Dayton-area schools.

• A major Cincinnati hospital system has merged with another health provider headquartered in Maryland. Mercy Health hospital system, which employs more than 33,000 people as the fourth-largest employer in Ohio, will merge with Baltimore-area Bon Secours, a hospital system with 24,000 people. Mercy employs more than 4,000 workers at its Bond Hill headquarters and contributed almost $4 billion to Greater Cincinnati’s economy in 2016. It’s unclear whether the restructuring will result in Mercy moving that headquarters or potentially expanding it for Bon Secours employees. The merger creates the fifth-largest Catholic healthcare system in the country.

• All fraternity activity has been suspended at Miami University in Oxford following incidents of reported hazing. Specifics about the misconduct alleged at several fraternities haven’t been released, but the school has struggled with past incidents and says it is investigating complaints. In the meantime, the university’s Interfraternity Council has suspended considering new members this year.

“Reports of hazing that lead us to take this action are antithetical to the pillars of Greek life; we who uphold those pillars will not tolerate behaviors in violation of them,” Miami said in a news release. “We know those behaviors are not indicative of the majority of Miami Greek students. Yet, the Greek community has an active stance against hazing and we must act for the betterment of individuals and the whole.”

• If you’re looking for statewide political drama, the gubernatorial race is going to have to do, at least until after the primaries. Ohio has only one down-ticket statewide primary contest going, between Republican Ohio Treasurer contenders Sandy O’Brien and State Rep. Robert Sprague. Only one contender, Cincinnati’s Rob Richardson, has qualified for the ballot, meaning he’ll face off with whoever wins between O’Brien and Sprague. In the state auditor’s race, Democrat and former Ohio congressman Zack Space has no primary opponents and will face off in November against Republican Keith Faber, also unopposed in his party’s primary.

• Despite accidentally hiring a person with a drug felony and consultants who had a conflicts of interest with applicants, and despite scoring errors by an employee weighing applications, Ohio Auditor David Yost says it’s too late for the state to pause its medical marijuana licensing process. The Ohio Department of Commerce offered last week to put the brakes on the process for now after admitting Feb. 15 that an employee error affected scoring of applications for the state’s 24 medicinal marijuana licenses. That's not been the only hiccup for the program: news came out recently that the state hired Trevor C. Bozeman as a consultant for the process. Bozeman has a controlled substances felony in Pennsylvania from 2005, according to court records.

"Weighing the multiple process flaws against the harms caused by 'pausing' the program at this late date seems to me to favor allowing the program to move forward and allowing the program flaws to be addressed through the administrative appeals process or other litigation," Yost wrote in a letter responding to the Department of Commerce’s inquiry about pausing the licensing process.

The deadline under the state law legalizing medicinal marijuana to get the program up and running is Sept. 8.

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