COLUMBUS, Ohio — A group seeking to legalize marijuana for personal and medicinal use announced Thursday its proposal calls for regulated testing of cannabis grown in Ohio before it can be sold to consumers.
The group calling itself ResponsibleOhio wants to amend the Ohio Constitution to legalize marijuana use and tax the sale of the drug, limiting where it can be grown in the state to 10 specific areas.
The marijuana grown at those 10 sites would then be sent to one of five regional testing facilities, the group announced Thursday. The testing facilities would be operated separately from growing locations and the retail stores.
“The testing sites will independently verify that Ohio’s marijuana supply is safe, and will provide useful information for product labeling and packaging,” ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Lydia Bolander said in a statement. “This is especially important for medical marijuana patients who are dealing with debilitating ailments and need complete assurance that their marijuana has been grown and processed at the highest pharmaceutical standards.”
Testing facilities would be located near colleges and universities, which could research the drug, Bolander said.
The group did not release details on the language of its proposed amendment, which it plans to put before voters in November 2015.
Groups proposing constitutional amendments must collect more than 305,591 valid signatures — meeting a threshold from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties — to get the issue on a ballot.
Recent proposals to legalize marijuana for medical treatment have failed to collect enough signatures or raise enough money to hire signature gatherers and run a successful campaign.
A February 2014 Quinnipiac University poll of Ohio voters found 87 percent support the use of medical marijuana while only 11 percent oppose. Ohio voters also narrowly approve of allowing adults to possess small amounts of the drug for personal use — 51 percent in favor, 44 percent opposed.
“We’ve heard too many stories of families who have lost children, siblings and loved ones because marijuana they purchased was laced with dangerous drugs like heroin or PCP,” Bolander said. “The black market is dangerous and prohibition has failed. The consumer should be confident that they are buying marijuana that is safe because it has been tested, labeled, and is being sold in sealed packaging.”
A second group calling itself Ohioans to End Prohibition announced last week it plans to put an issue on the ballot in 2016. Its amendment would not limit the number of wholesale growers and would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.