Infighting Threatens Ohio’s Legalization

While most marijuana battles will be happening in state legislatures, Ohio has the privilege of being one of the few states that will actually vote on marijuana legalization.

The stakes are high for both sides of the debate; if a swing state like Ohio approves legal marijuana that will incentivize the presidential candidates to either adopt a pro-marijuana platform or at the very least a hands-off approach.

However, the impending fight for the hearts and minds of Ohio voters may not be between marijuana supporters and prohibitionists.

There are currently two competing visions for Ohio’s marijuana industry. The first vision is that of the group Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis. ROC plans on submitting a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older, cap the number of approved growers to just 10 and bar citizens from growing their own marijuana.

At the moment, that is pretty much all we know because ROC has been quick to announce its intentions but slow to actually produce the proposed amendment. We have a broad outline, but key provisions, such as the grower limit, are excluded from the outline.

The second vision of the Ohio cannabis industry is from Ohioans to End Prohibition. OTEP is incredibly new, having just announced its intentions to fight for legal marijuana with a midnight press release on January 8, 2015.

According to Cleveland.com, OTEP had planned to wait until the spring to announce its plans, but ROC’s announcement prompted OTEP to announce early.

Unlike the constitutional amendment proposed by ROC, OTEP’s amendment would not limit the numbers of growers and would not prevent home cultivation. Another key difference is that OTEP’s bill would not only legalize recreational marijuana, but medical marijuana as well. Whether this “All of the Above” approach will hurt or hinder the group’s efforts remains to be seen.

At the heart of this internal struggle for marijuana reform is the issue of approved growers and home cultivation. Many marijuana advocates loathe the idea of a constitutional monarchy, and OTEP has made that part of its campaign.

OTEP’s website outlines what the group’s amendment will do and you can read in big black bold letters: “There will be NO CONSTITUTIONALLY CREATED MONOPOLIES.”

This is the first direct jab in what may end up being a long and expensive electoral battle. Although OTEP has grassroots support, ROC has connections to the top fundraisers and politicians in Ohio, which could scream dirty politics. Without some huge help from fundraisers, OTEP stands to be drowned in a sea of money.

With the majority of Ohioans in favor of marijuana legalization, it is reasonable to expect that marijuana reform in Ohio can pass.

However, these two competing marijuana bills threaten the possibility of a “Green” Ohio. More than 50 percent of Ohioans may vote for legal marijuana, but it might not be for the same bill.

With a divided house, all prohibitionists have to do is sit on the sidelines and watch both groups destroy themselves.

Now, it is important to note that ROC and OTEP still have to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot so we are far away from a head-to-head conflict, but one could be brewing. Marijuana reform may win big in 2015, but if Ohio can’t get its house in order, the Buckeye state may be left in the dust.

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