The Ohio Ballot Board decided last Friday to approve a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would legalize and regulate the growth and sale of marijuana. Other more progressive states have done it with great success, that can positively impact government spending at all levels, from law enforcement to corrections to job training and more.
ResponsibleOhio, the advocacy group behind the campaign, praised the approval of its Marijuana Legalization Amendment. “The Ballot Board affirmed what we have always known, that the Marijuana Legalization Amendment is a single issue,” said ResponsibleOhio Spokesperson Lydia Bolander in a statement today. “We will move forward with collecting the signatures required to put our amendment before voters in November.”
Comments offered by some of the group’s supporters demonstrated the importance of fully legalizing marijuana in Ohio. Revenue from its passage would become a new source to help offset the funds withheld by the Kasich Administration since 2011, that used to flow to them, especially first responders, police and firefighters.but were withheld at the state level since 2011.
The Marijuana Legalization Amendment would legalize marijuana for medical and personal use by adults 21 years of age and older. The Ohio Attorney General certified the amendment last week.
Canton City Councilmember Frank Morris reiterated the impact the plan will have on local funding, saying, “As an elected official in Canton, I’ve been forced to make tough choices in order to take care of our community on an increasingly limited budget. This is a clear, thorough proposal that will reform outdated, dysfunctional laws and bring much-needed revenue back to Ohio’s local governments.”
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said the initiative campaign is necessary to make up for decades of inaction by the state legislature, which but for a brief two-year period from 2008-2010 when Democrats controlled the House, Republicans have controlled both chambers since the mid-1990s. “Our communities have seen devastating reductions to local government funds in recent years, forcing cuts to first responders, infrastructure, and social services,” Gerken said, ading, “We must have a robust discussion on the question of marijuana legalization, including how it relates to generating new tax revenue to make our communities stronger. The people of Ohio should have their say at the ballot box on the issue of marijuana reform. This initiative provides that opportunity.”
Barbara Gould, a social justice advocate, emphasized the importance of reforming Ohio’s unjust marijuana laws. “Black Ohioans are four times more likely than white Ohioans to be arrested for marijuana, even though both groups use it at the same rate. Instead of wasting $120 million of taxpayer money to ruin lives and break up families, our state should legalize marijuana and work toward a more just and equal future for all Ohioans.”
Kasich “Cool” Factor At Odds With Future
Gov. Kasich hasn’t issued a statement on the work of the Ballot Board today, but he won’t be for it, because as an old-line Republican, he’s been an opponent of the substance, especially its legalization and sale, throughout his political career. In an interview on WHIO, Gov. Kasich said about legalizing marijuana, “We’re not going to do that if I have anything to say about it.” Bully for the governor if he thinks shinning up his outdated “cool factor” is all about looking to the past instead of the future.
Brice Keller, a Dayton-area attorney and Iraq War veteran, didn’t mince words when he explained the effectiveness marijuana has in reducing the symptoms of PTSD. “Since leaving the military, I have dealt with issues of PTSD, anxiety and depression.” Keller said he tried lots of other medications over the years, but ultimately he found that marijuana provided the relief he needed, and the side effects were limited. “I think marijuana should be legal so that every Ohioan can have access to the treatments they need.”
Rocky Mountain Highs Good For Schools
Meanwhile, one state that has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use is happy with the returns. It appears that $15.6 million in marijuana tax money has been raised for Colorado school improvements since recreational use of pot plants became legal.
Mirroring what casinos did to distribute gambling revenues to local governments and schools, ResponsibleOhio’s amendment also bypasses the legislature in order to deliver directly local government. Gov. Kasich is touting surpluses on his watch, but local governments would argue his surplus is their revenue.