Campaign launched to legalize marijuana for all adults in Ohio


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) - Medical marijuana prescriptions haven't been filled yet in Ohio and already there's a push to legalize it for all adults for recreational use. The campaign to amend the Ohio Constitution to allow for "adult-use" of marijuana started Monday.

Several people who were part of the failed Responsible Ohio campaign two years ago are launching the latest effort. Jimmy Gould and Ian James applied for a license with the state for a large medical marijuana cultivation operation and were denied. Gould said the campaign isn't about sour grapes but the serious flaws he found in the state's medical marijuana system after they were rejected. He discovered a convicted drug dealer was hired by the state to grade the applications.

"What'd they think that we were just going to go away?" Gould said during a press conference Monday morning in Downtown Columbus. "Turn a deaf ear and let this get railroaded to people that had relationships? People that have conflicts of interest? That drug felons grade the applications? There's no chance on Planet Earth that we're going away. I don't know what is worse, not having done a background check or having done one and hiding that fact from everyone involved in that process. It's not okay that a convicted drug dealer did it."

His proposed constitutional amendment wouldn't get rid of the state's medical marijuana program. It would treat marijuana much like alcohol, allowing anyone over the age of 21 to consume it and allowing people to grow small amounts of it at home for non-commercial use.

"We will pull together the best amendment that we think will pass and does the most good for Ohioans," Gould said.

State lawmakers haven't been willing to legalize marijuana for non-medical purposes.

"Many have suggested Ohio's medical marijuana program is the best in the United States so I think that's what we need to focus on now," said Rep. Kirk Schuring, R - Canton, who designed the state's medical marijuana program. Schuring said he's had concerns with how the Ohio Department of Commerce has implemented the program. A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Commerce said there were four teams grading applications for the cultivation licenses. It said one person wouldn't be able to have a large effect on the outcome.

Activists pushing for legalization said they had mixed feelings. Many of them did not support the Responsible Ohio plan in 2015 because it didn't allow people to grow marijuana at home. Some of them are more optimistic about the latest effort but said they wanted to see the details of the plan first.

"I'm still a little skeptical just because of the past issues but it's promising," said Leanne Barbee with the group Ohio Norml.

Gould said he wanted to hear from the public about what they wanted to see in the marijuana amendment before writing the actual language of it. His campaign must collect more than 300,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

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