Ohio Marijuana Legalization Campaign Backed, Blasted

55A group campaigning for the legalization of marijuana in Ohio has announced that it now has the support of investors. But the group was not saved from criticism of its plans.

ResponsibleOhio released on Friday a list of 11 backers, which is a mix of Ohio or Ohio-grown business people and philanthropists. Among them are high-profile names such as NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, NFL veteran Frostee Rucker, and fashion designer Nanette Lepore. Local moguls such as Frank Wood, a Cincinnati radio station owner, and Rick Kirk, a Columbus real estate developer, were also in the list.

The campaign proposes to amend Ohio’s Constitution so that marijuana becomes legal, whether for medical or personal use, and only for those over 21 years of age.

The proposal involves setting up a network of 10 cannabis growers to supply all of the state’s marijuana. Their products will be sent to designated testing facilities for potency and safety screenings. The screened marijuana would then go to non-profit medical cannabis dispensaries, retail outlets, or be infused into consumer products.

According to ResponsibleOhio, its backers are from investment groups that would manage, oversee, and operate its proposed facilities.

The group further said its proposal would create jobs and generate revenue for the state while making cannabis tested, controlled, and safe.

Robertson, who played for the Cincinnati Royals as well as the Milwaukee Bucks, said he is supporting the campaign because he believes in the benefits of medical marijuana. In his statement released by ResponsibleOhio, he emphasized that he has had personal experience with a debilitating medical condition. A few years ago, the athlete had to undergo a surgery after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The group’s plan, however, was met by criticism. ResponsibleOhio is one of the two Ohio legalization campaigns, and both have been opposed by all five statewide officeholders.

Attorney General Mike DeWine was one who spoke out earlier last week against the plan, calling it “a stupid idea.” He said it would create a marijuana monopoly, and that the herb could also end up in products accessible by children, such as candy.

Other commentators agree that the plan could lead to monopoly. Media outlet Cleveland Scene compared the approach to Issue 3, which in 2009 brought in legal casino gambling in four of Ohio’s cities.

In the meantime, ResponsibleOhio is hoping to put in its ballot measure this fall. The group has until July to gain enough signatures to get its issue on the ballot.

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