Ohio Supreme Court justice backs legalizing marijuana

In this July 15, 2011 file photo, a marijuana plant stands amid a plantation. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini, File)

TOLEDO, OH (AP) — An Ohio Supreme Court justice who’s mulling a run for governor thinks it’s time for the state to decriminalize marijuana.

Justice William O’Neill, the lone Democrat holding an Ohio statewide office, said making marijuana legal is working in Colorado and doing it in Ohio would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in sales taxes.

O’Neill announced earlier this year that he’s considering stepping down and making a run for governor, but he doesn’t plan on making a decision until the end of the year.

In a speech mixed with his analysis of last year’s presidential election and thoughts about problems facing the state, O’Neill said he not only wants to legalize marijuana but also release all non-violent marijuana offenders from prison.

Doing those two things would generate an estimated $350 million to both combat drug addiction and create a mental health network run by the state, he told members of the Wayne County Democratic Party on Friday night.

“The time has come for new thinking,” O’Neill said in his prepared remarks. “We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass.”

He said the Democratic Party needs new ideas in 2018 if it wants knock off Republicans who control all branches of Ohio government.

O’Neill wants to see the Ohio Department of Mental Health re-open the network of state hospitals that were closed decades ago and change how the state deals with addiction.

“Treat addiction like the disease it is in the name of compassion,” he said.

There’s already a crowded field lining up on both sides of the governor’s race.

For the Democrats, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni are making runs.

The field on the Republican side includes U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Secretary of State Jon Husted while Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Attorney General Mike DeWine are widely expected to seek the GOP nomination.

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