A ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and create a for-profit industry was ripped on
Thursday by some of Ohio’s top elected officials, who called it “outrageous” and a “stupid idea” to
create a dangerous constitutional monopoly.
“I don’t know I’ve ever seen a worse idea than this,” Secretary of State Jon Husted said at a
Columbus forum sponsored by the Associated Press.
Auditor Dave Yost called it “outrageous we are creating business monopolies by ballot issues.
… What’s next, 12 monopolies for whorehouses in the 12 largest counties?”
Four of the top five Republican nonjudicial officeholders — Gov. John Kasich was not there —
slammed ResponsibleOhio’s plan to give 10 individuals or investor groups who fund the campaign
exclusive rights to operate one of 10 businesses in the lucrative “growth and cultivation of
marijuana and the extraction of cannabinoids.” The goal is to put the issue to public vote this
Treasurer Josh Mandel joked that legalization would boost “the sale of Girl Scout cookies.” But
he said it would also worsen an existing job-market problem with prospective job applicants failing
Two legislative leaders added their voices to the chorus of opposition later Thursday. President
Keith Faber, R-Celina, said he has “grave concern … with this new trend of people proposing
things that give certain individuals constitutionally protected property rights. I’m really
concerned about what that does for democracy.”
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, likewise said he’s not a fan of the
But Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, suggested the state should look into
medical marijuana. “We have a lot of young people with medical problems. If this plant can help
them, then I think we should consider it.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine, speaking at the AP event, said bluntly, “This is a stupid idea.”
“I don’t see how anyone could be in favor of granting a monopoly to make money selling
marijuana,” he added.
DeWine and Husted are in unusual positions because they will have to deal with the proposal in
their official capacities. DeWine will review the ballot language submitted to determine whether it
is a fair summary of the proposed amendment. And Husted, as chairman of the Ohio Ballot Board, will
help determine whether the proposal constitutes one or more issues.
ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Lydia Bolander responded to the comments, saying the “decision about
whether to pass this amendment will be made by voters, not politicians.”
“Let’s stop kidding ourselves: Marijuana prohibition has failed. Ohioans are sick of wasting
$120 million per year to enforce that failure and deny patients the medical marijuana that would
ease their suffering. ResponsibleOhio’s plan will create a tightly regulated, safe, open and
transparent market, bringing much-needed revenue to our communities and creating thousands of jobs.”
Under ResponsibleOhio’s plan, tax revenue levied on marijuana sales is projected to reach tens
of millions of dollars annually and would be distributed on a per-capita basis. The plan would
allocate 55 percent to a municipal fund, 30 percent to a county fund and 15 percent to a fund to
pay for nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries, addiction and treatment programs, and marijuana
Dispatch Reporter Jim Siegel contributed to this story.