Ohio Assembly Wants to Thwart ResponsibleOhio Monopoly

In Ohio, a handful of marijuana legalization groups are scrambling to get their competing voter initiatives on the ballot for 2016. ResponsibleOhio is the most notable of these groups and has drawn heavy criticism from both sides of the debate for seeking to establish a grower monopoly in the state.

In response to the criticism, lawmakers have introduced a measure which, if passed, would thwart ResponsibleOhio’s would-be marijuana monopoly.

Introduced by Reps. Mike Curtin and Ryan Smith, the proposed measure would place a voter initiative on the ballot for 2016 that would “prohibit an initiated constitutional amendment that would grant a monopoly or special economic interest, privilege, benefit, right, or license.”

In short, it would nullify the provision in ResponsibleOhio’s voter initiated constitutional amendment that would only allow 10 marijuana growers to be licensed in the state. The proposed measure has support from both the House and Senate leadership, and has a solid chance of passing in the Ohio Assembly and getting on the 2016 ballot.

Typically, when two competing ballot initiatives are approved by voters, the one with the most votes is the one that becomes law. However, lawmakers plan on exploiting a clever loophole in order to supersede ResponsibleOhio’s amendment.

The Ohio constitution stipulates that any citizen initiated petition must be implemented within 30 days of passage. However, there is no mention of such a time frame for initiatives introduced by the state Assembly, which means it could go into effect immediately, beating ResponsibleOhio to the punch.

According to The Toledo Blade, the General Assembly plans on acting on the proposed measure by June 30. Understandably, ResponsibleOhio has not taken kindly to the legislature trying to sabotage its initiative.

“Lawmakers were obviously very calculated and strategic in writing their anti-voter amendment,” said ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James in a statement. “We know politicians don’t want Ohioans to legalize marijuana … . This anti-voter amendment makes clear that if lawmakers had their way, they would trump the will of the people.”

When Curtain was asked about his motivation for the initiative, he said it had nothing to do with marijuana but rather protecting Ohio from monopolies. “For me the issue is not marijuana, it’s not legalization,” Curtain told Cleveland.com. “I would be in this fight if the commodity was bananas or tires or anything else.”

Presuming that ResponsibleOhio and the legislature both have their respective initiatives passed, it will be an interesting scenario to see played out. While there could be injunctions and lawsuits between both parties, it remains to be seen what this signifies for the industry.

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