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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans over 21 could buy marijuana from a legal, licensed store as early as summer of 2016 if an effort to legalize the drug is successful this year.
The group calling itself ResponsibleOhio announced new details of a proposal to legalize the production, sale and medical and personal use of marijuana in Ohio. The group is aiming to legalize the industry through a constitutional amendment before voters in November 2015.
Northeast Ohio Media Group and others previously reported ResponsibleOhio would limit growing of cannabis to 10 regulated sites to be identified in the amendment and five separate sites would test all cannabis for its safety and potency.
The details released Tuesday describe who would make the rules, how growers, product manufacturers and retailers would become licensed and what limitations would be in place. The group, which is backed by unidentified investors and several Columbus public relations and ballot initiative firms, plans to submit amendment language in the next few weeks.
Here are five highlights from Tuesday morning’s release.
The proposed amendment would create a seven-member Marijuana Control Commission to create regulations for the industry, audit marijuana establishments and enforce regulations.
The governor would appoint the following commission members: licensed Ohio physician, sworn Ohio law enforcement officer, licensed attorney with experience in administrative law, Ohio-based patient advocate, Ohio resident with experience owning and operating a business, Ohio resident with experience in the industry and a member of the public who is an Ohio resident over age 21.
Members would serve four-year, staggered terms and could not have served as an elected official in public office during the eight years prior to the creation of the commission.
The commission would establish rules and regulations for most aspects of the industry, from licensing facilities to testing products to qualifications for medical marijuana patients.
Marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent at every level of the supply chain: grow sites, marijuana product manufacturing facilities and retail stores. Sales tax and commercial activity tax would also be levied.
The majority of marijuana tax revenues, 55 percent, would go toward municipal and township governments for police, road repair and other public services while 30 percent would go toward counties for public services. The remaining 15 percent would fund mental health and addiction prevention and treatment programs, marijuana research in Ohio, nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries and the commission.
Tax-free medical marijuana
Nonprofit dispensaries would sell medical marijuana and marijuana products at wholesale prices, offering lower prices to patients who cannot afford the full cost.
Physicians would determine whether patients meet a “debilitating medical condition,” defined by the amendment as cancer, glaucoma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, PTSD and other conditions. Patients under age 18 would need parental consent.
Physicians who prescribe marijuana would be held to the same prescription standards as prescribing other medications.
More on those growers
Ohio marijuana legalization campaigns have failed in the past largely because they lack the money to obtain the necessary signatures to put the issue on the ballot. ResponsibleOhio leapt that hurdle by securing wealthy investors who will likely stake a claim on one of the 10 growing locations.
The overview released Tuesday doesn’t name those sites.
The commission would have the authority to revoke grower licenses or issue additional licenses as needed to meet demand or replace sites that close or choose not to apply for a license.
Marijuana stores on every corner?
The amendment would limit the number of retail marijuana stores to no more than one store per 10,000 Ohio residents — or about 1,150 stores based on the last Census.
Similar to restaurants and stores seeking approval to sell alcohol, marijuana retail stores would first ask voters in the precinct to OK the location before applying for a state license to sell. If approved by voters in November, the earliest stores could seek approval on local ballots would be a May 2016 special election.
The stores could only sell marijuana grown at the 10 licensed sites and marijuana-infused products and accessories from licensed product manufacturing facilities.
Retail stores, dispensaries, manufacturers, testing sites and growers could not be located within 1,000 feet of churches, libraries, playgrounds, elementary or secondary schools and state-licensed child care centers. The amendment specifies marijuana use is still illegal in public places, schools and prisons and on planes, trains and motorboats.