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Ohio Recreational Pot Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Nov. 2015 Ballot

In November, Ohioans are set to vote on a ballot initiative that, if it were to pass, would place an amendment legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical uses in the Ohio Constitution.

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Barry Donegan
Barry Donegan is a writer, musician, and pro-liberty political activist living in Nashville, TN. Donegan served as Director-at-Large of the Davidson County Republican Party from 2009-2011 and was the Middle Tennessee Regional Coordinator over 30 counties for Ron Paul's 2012 Presidential Campaign. Follow him at facebook.com/barry.donegan and twitter.com/barrydonegan

Ohio voters will decide on this November’s ballot whether the state will legalize marijuana for recreational and medical uses.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted confirmed on Wednesday that the pro-pot group ResponsibleOhio has successfully obtained 320,267 valid signatures of voters in a petition drive qualifying a marijuana legalization ballot initiative for the state’s November 3, 2015 general election.

It’s time for marijuana legalization in Ohio, and voters will have the opportunity to make it happen this November — we couldn’t be more excited. Drug dealers don’t care about doing what’s best for our state and its citizens. By reforming marijuana laws in November, we’ll provide compassionate care to sick Ohioans, bring money back to our local communities and establish a new industry with limitless economic development opportunities,” read a statement by ResponsibleOhio executive director Ian James. The group reportedly spent over $2 million since March of this year promoting its signature gathering campaign and still has over $20 million in its war chest to spend on promoting November’s initiative.

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If the amendment were to pass, it would legalize the recreational use and possession of up to one ounce of pot for individuals of 21 years of age or older. Medical marijuana would become available to patients with a doctor’s prescription. Additionally, those who obtain a cultivation license would be able to grow up to four marijuana plants at home for their own personal use. Marijuana production would be taxed at 15 percent and sales to consumers at 5 percent. 15 percent of tax revenues would go to fund a new regulatory authority called the Marijuana Control Commission. Remaining revenues would be split by Ohio towns, cities, and counties.

The amendment would create criminal laws cracking down on marijuana sales to minors, the employment of minors at marijuana businesses, pot-intoxicated drivers, and public cannabis consumption.

Though the amendment would not impact existing marijuana convictions, if it passes, ResponsibleOhio plans to push for a 2016 ballot initiative called the Fresh Start Act that would create a process for expunging thus-outdated pot convictions.

The Plain Dealer notes that the amendment would constitutionally restrict commercial cultivation to 10 specific farms owned by ResponsibleOhio investors, which critics have said creates a “monopoly.” Those who stand to profit on those farms include former 98 Degrees performer Nick Lachey, fashion designer Nanette Lapore, Arizona Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker, and Woody and Dudley Taft Jr., both of whom are descendants of former President William Howard Taft.

In June, the Ohio Legislature placed an initiative on the November 2015 ballot that would ban the creation of a “monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel” from the Ohio Constitution. Sec. Husted said that he believes that the anti-monopoly amendment would override the marijuana legalization amendment if both were to pass, a legal theory which ResponsibleOhio representatives contest. If that were to be the outcome of the election, a court battle would likely ensue.

Former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher, a ResponsibleOhio supporter, said, “When I served as the Chief of Police for Ohio’s third-largest city, I saw first-hand the destructive impact of Ohio’s marijuana laws. Our state spends over $120 million per year to enforce marijuana prohibition, even though we all know these laws do not work. Law enforcement should instead be able to spend their time and their resources cracking down on the real criminals. ResponsibleOhio’s amendment will do just that, paving the way for a better, safer future for our children and grandchildren.

Republican State Representative Niraj Antani, an opponent of the pot legalization amendment, told WDTN-TV, “Even if you do favor it, this is a bad deal. This is ten or fifteen individuals all investing into a scheme to make a lot of money. This isn’t how we should create industries in Ohio. It’s going to be put into the constitution which should be done very carefully. I think it’s a bad deal for all Ohioans.

Ohio Governor and 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich opposes the measure.

A July Quinnipiac University poll found that 52 percent of Ohioans supported marijuana legalization and 44 percent expressed their opposition.

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode exposing the federal government’s mixed messages about medical marijuana. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.

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