Evaluating ResponsibleOhio, the Secretive Pot Plutocracy
Most of American industry is cartelized (really!), but why would any freedom-loving American vote for a legal drug cartel? Are illegal drug cartels – its crime and its très cher pot-luck “mystery weed” – not exactly what the movement is trying to eradicate in the first place? This is the trillion-dollar question that Ohioan voters have to ask themselves in November when deep-pocketed political action committee (PAC) ResponsibleOhio (RO) will likely puts its monopolistic recreational marijuana Constitutional Amendment before them in the off-year voter’s booth. And once added to the Constitution, this amendment to recreationally legalize the fifth state in America becomes very difficult to reverse. Other than capitalist encroachment among the marijuana penny stocks, the highly secretive PAC represents the first instance of Big Business emerging into the cannabis industry.
Top state officials have spoken out against RO’s monopoly. As Ohio AG Mark DeWine aptly puts it, “I don’t see how any Ohioan could be in favor of creating a monopoly for a handful of people to make a bunch of money.” Auditor David Yost clarifies the zeitgeist even further: “What will we have next? Twelve monopolies for whorehouses in the twelve largest counties?”
Everyone in the cannabis movement will need to wake up to the recreational takeover unfolding in Ohio because how Ohio goes, probably so goes the nation. In the Northeast, the movement has probably already lost the battle in the medical marijuana space to “corporate pot oligopolies,” with their unionized weed labor. This is a war, and Ohio is the unadvertised Gettysburg battle in 2015. For the good of America and themselves in the long run, Ohioans will have to delay a bit longer the expected improvement in their economy from a legalized recreational marijuana space. By 2016, more fair and transparent petitions will likely get the signatures that only RO and its $36 million funding can muster this year, it appears at the moment.
“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceeding.” –JFK, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, April 27, 1961.
As disliked by the cannabis community as much as it is, the co-opted grass-roots organization, ResponsibleOhio, is the most likely to get the roughly 306,000 signatures, by 1st July, to have its proposal voted on in November. In its first two weeks of petitioning, RO says that the PAC is ahead of plan with a goal of 700,000 signatures by 1st July. After initially declining to reveal the text of its proposal, RO finally disclosed that its Amendment is for ten investment groups funding the PAC to have exclusive rights to grow marijuana in the state, with a maximum 10 cultivation centers and 5 testing centers (all placed near the richest cities in the state), and with 1,100 licenses available for the little guy to run and operate dispensaries and processors.
Crucially, while RO says that the ten investors are “the exact opposite of a monopoly,” a mere three “Related Persons” are associated with all ten SEC filings, according to extensive analysis by Columbus Free Press, putting RO’s defense into question.
In the RO Amendment, homegrown pot is limited to a stingy four plants, requiring a license ostensibly so that the Feds can oppress private growers if convenient, with no legal ability to sell the product of their labor. Further, since the bill does not have a provision for “transporting” the seeds, home growing is not even practical, in the first place. The plan does not reverse prior convictions, nor does it contain provisions to protect against arrest and prosecution and there is no affirmative defense, if arrested. Industrial hemp, the miracle crop suppressed by far larger industrial cartels 78 years ago, is not included in the proposal, either.
What’s more and what should really be sending alarm bells ringing is that RO is extremely secretive. RO’s Amendment is the state-sized version of the “bait and switch,” lengthy and opaque Cromnibus Bill with all its “devil in the details” language that secretively slipped into the 1,600 page bill everything from a pre-packaged Wall Street bailout to its failed attempt to fully eradicate DC’s Initiative 71 legalization plan, whose partial implementation, in the final analysis, lacks distribution, taxation and regulation, as a result.
“We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.”
While the mainstream cannabis media ignores the RO shenanigans in Ohio and most local media brushes over the secretive aspects, the blogosphere makes it very clear where informed people stand on the matter. In contrast to Cleveland.com’s botched, uninformed attempt to expose RO’s opacity and secretiveness, The Leaf Online does a fine job of articulating the conundrum more fairly, in its 2nd February piece, “Ohio Legalization 2016: Cutting Through The Smoke”:
“Although ResponsibleOhio (RO) sports a name suspiciously similar to that of Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis, that is where nearly all similarity ends between the two reform groups. As opposed to the more established ROC, the much-newer RO has employed public relations tactics secretive enough to draw comparisons between their group and illegal drug cartels operating in the shadows. (Responsible Ohio representatives declined all interview requests for this article.) It is also widely expected that if RO’s plan prevails, its small group of wealthy backers will receive preferential treatment to gobble up the extremely limited number of licenses which would be available.”
“For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence – on filtration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerillas by night instead of armies by day.”
On 30th January, RO finally announced 11 key investors, or Pot Plutocrats, whom Clevesecene.com calls the “motliest crew of investors you ever did see.” As The Leaf Online puts it, “as opposed to their formerly secretive tactics, RO appears to be embarking on a new era of transparency — at least, up to a point.” One of the investors’ names, for example, is Frank Wood, CEO of radio broadcaster Secret Communications. “Secret” was created as a joke, Mr. Wood said.
More recently, on 25th March, RO announced that the “long-storied” Taft Brothers are an additional supporter. The two brothers are the great-great grandnephews of President William Howard Taft; one is a private equity banker and the other is a professional guitar player who recently moved into Peter Frampton’s former home and studio in Cincinnati. “Two scions of the city’s storied Taft family have invested in the Butler County property that would serve as one of the 10 marijuana-producing farms should voters legalize marijuana in November,” according to Cincinnati.com.
“It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.”
The basis of RO’s proposal is to, seemingly, eliminate forever consumers’ choice and make the cartel the only game in town; whereas the whole point of legalization for most users is to have the ability to tailor the marijuana strain to their own liking. My wife, an avid reader of The New York Social Diary, passed me their Washington correspondent’s 30th March article, “Through a Puff Lightly.” This fascinating article basically surveys the liberal-conservative hybrid social landscape that has already emerged after DC’s 26th February legalization, and reports on a one-hour “Q&A Café” with Adam Eidenger, the former grassroots DC Cannabis Campaign chairman who had originally proposed Initiative 71.
In the Social Diary, what I picked up on most, perhaps obviously, was Adam’s discussion on investment opportunities in legal weed, where he advocates the obvious path for DC, to start a “professional growhouse business.” Adam suggests that a gardening service “manages the seeds so they do, in fact, grow into healthy, high quality plants in the strains the user may desire. The strains desired? What does that mean? It means that when the growing of marijuana is legal and controlled, and responsible, plants can openly be cultivated to suit individual needs and level of tolerance, eliminating ‘mystery weed,’ which is usually inferior or just plain bad.”
Not only would RO likely keep the origin and quality of its weed shrouded in mystery, but its testing has been put into question as well. Unfortunately, RO is apparently not so “responsible” as its name implies, for, contrary to claims on its website, the Amendment’s wording makes it “nearly impossible for the state, or RO, to guarantee that consumers will receive a completely ‘safe’ and ‘tested’ product,” according to the research by Columbus Free Press.
“Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed.” -JFK
With a $36 million war chest, it is hard to imagine that RO will not be able to fulfill the petition that no group to date has accomplished. But, ultimately, the secretive monopoly will not happen unless the People of Ohio vote for it. Crucially, Ohio voters need to resist Luciferian-like temptation, and wait until a true and transparent grass-roots organization has success with a petition, and vote for its plan (with industrial hemp included), probably in 2016. Since possession of 100 grams is already decriminalized in Ohio to a minor misdemeanor with a $150 fine, Ohioans are better off than much of America already. They can wait an extra year for a true and transparent recreational legalization plan allowing adults access to good weed with no surprises, and at better prices. (Further, in Section D of RO’s Amendment, lawful possession is actually limited to only 28 grams). Wake up Ohioans, the future of cannabis legalization, and perhaps Freedom in America, is lying in the balance!
By Robert Brand