Lawmakers approve plan to thwart marijuana proposal

FILE - This Feb. 1, 2011 file photo shows medical marijuana clone plants at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Rick Kirk says he understood the risks when he decided to invest in ResponsibleOhio, the group pushing a proposal to legalize marijuana in Ohio. Kirk, a developer from Upper Arlington, would control one of ten growing locations identified in the proposed constitutional amendment.

Kirk says given that it is a politically charged issue, he expected some ups and downs but intends to see it through. If the constitutional amendment is approved by voters, he would expect to hire 50 to 300 employees.

Critics of the ResponsibleOhio proposal say it creates a monopoly by limiting the production of marijuana to the ten sites controlled by the group’s investors.

That concern prompted the Ohio House of Representatives Wednesday to approve a joint resolution calling for a separate constitutional amendment that would prohibit changes to the constitution that create monopolies. Lawmakers called it an historic moment.

“It’s directed at monopolies,” said Rep. Ryan Smith, one of the sponsors. “It’s not directed at marijuana. It’s about monopolies and trying to raise the bar so that the folks in Ohio are protected from allowing people to profit from our constitution.”

But Responsible Ohio’s Ian James says the group’s proposal is not a monopoly. He argues that the proposal allows for anyone to open a marijuana retail operation and would allow anyone over 21 to grow up to four marijuana plants on their own.
“You don’t have to buy marijuana from a retail store,” James said. “You can grow your own if you are over 21 as long as you are keeping it out of the anyone who’s under 21’s hands. So that’s not a monopoly.”

James said he expects to collect 700 thousand petition signatures – more than double what’s needed.

The Joint Resolution now heads to the Ohio Senate.

So voters may be deciding on both proposed amendments in November.

Rep. Mike Curtin, a Columbus Democrat and co-sponsor of HJR4 said it’s possible both amendments could be approved by voters. “If there are directly contradictory amendments on the ballot, the one that gets the most affirmative votes trumps the other, period,” Curtin said.

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