Groups Trying to Get Pot Legalized in Ohio Aren't Exactly Doobie Brothers

Ten wealthy investors who want to become the titans of weed in Ohio have pushed real potheads to the back of the party bus as they work to win voter approval of a proposal to legalize marijuana in the Buckeye State.

Responsible Ohio is one of three groups pushing to get nearly 306,000 petition signatures by July to put their proposals on the November 2015 ballot. This group, led by sports agent James Gould, has put up $36 million— and has hired political professionals who know how to win elections.

Responsible Ohio’s proposal would allow people over the age of 21 to use pot and would legalize medical marijuana for minors with parental consent.

People over the age of 21 would also be able to get a growers license to grow up to four marijuana plants for their personal use. That is one for the potheads.

But what the other groups pushing for legalized pot don’t like is the provision that shows that the wealthy investors in Responsible Ohio want more of a return on their investment than just a good buzz at a decent post-election party.

They want to limit the commercial growth of marijuana to 10 sites owned by the investors who are behind the Responsible Ohio ballot campaign.

Keith Stroup, an attorney with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws  (NORML), told the Cincinnati Enquirer it is important to remember the Ohio residents who have spent decades fighting to legalize weed.

He doesn’t want them swept aside like so many unwanted seeds and stems.

“These people have invested their lives and taken great risks to get us to where we are today,” he said. “We would like the market to be open to small-and mid-growers, not just the big guys.”

A December 2014 editorial in the Cleveland Plain Dealer said Responsible Ohio’s proposal would create “an anticompetitive constitutional monopoly aimed at enriching a tiny number of landowners” and concluded it “seems like the exact wrong way to go about any conceivable legislation.”

Still, Stroup said if Responsible Ohio is able to get this proposal on the November ballot and the other organizations failed in their endeavors, NORML would probably support it.

This is highly unusual. NORML is never put in this kind of position. But to borrow a business cliche, Responsible Ohio has changed the paradigm of the way marijuana initiatives have been run in other states.

Small- and mid-sized growers, along with people who just like to smoke pot, usually team up with NORML or another national organization like the Marijuana Policy Project to get their proposal on a ballot and hopefully round up enough votes to win. In other words, grass-roots organizations, with the accent on grass.

“Grass-roots” is a description that pretty much covers the other two organizations pushing marijuana reform in Ohio. They are circulating petitions in opposition to the Responsible Ohio proposal.