Responsible Ohio Campaign Accused of Initiating a Growers’ Monopoly

Political consultant Ian James gathered a total of 3,164 signatures so his own name could appear on Ohio’s November ballot for an initiative to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in the state.

Time.com reports that James came up with the idea for the measure. He consulted a lawyer to help him draft the constitutional amendment, which states only 10 growers would be allowed to supply Ohio’s cannabis market on 10 specific land parcels.

Critics are calling this arrangement a monopoly, according to Time.

Where there is money, there is power. James is one political consultant, among many, wrapped in a much larger network of pollsters, direct mail specialists, lawyers, consultants, signature gatherers and data whizzes.

This network is “funded by moneyed interests that belies the quaint notion of ‘citizen democracy’ that such efforts are assumed to represent,” the Time article said. This process dances around the notion of direct democracy and often benefits special interests, like the legalization of marijuana.

Time reported: “This has created a market filled with the promise of profits for those willing to work as mercenaries for a cause — or even come up with their own cause.” Using similar rhetoric, James has lured in thousands of supporters for his measure. His campaign is called Responsible Ohio.

“The honest and most easy response is: I am going to profit from this,” James told the Center for Public Integrity. “If people are upset about me making money, I don’t know what to say other than that that’s part of the American process.

“To win and make this kind of change for social justice, it does cost a lot of money,” James continued.

Although the cause—legal marijuana—is worth fighting for, there are ways of creating legislation that would not directly cause the market to operate as an oligopoly. Yet James is backed by a total of $340 million from investors; $20 million is to be used for the campaign alone.

Other organizations expected to place a marijuana bill on Ohio’s ballot include: Ohio Rights Group, Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis, and Ohioans to End Prohibition. But the campaign with the most money will likely win.

In the past, James has been successful in swaying Ohioans to approve four casinos, also rooted to particular plots of land, like the 10 growing facilities aforementioned in his marijuana bill.

Investors in James’ campaign include, “Nick Lachey, former 98 Degrees boy-bander and ex-husband of singer Jessica Simpson; fashion designer Nanette Lepore; and Arizona Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker. Others—such as Chicago investor Ben Kovler and Dayton pain specialist Dr. Suresh Gupta—can only be found after digging through documents.”

Alan Mooney—Responsible Ohio investor and financier—said, “I don’t want to throw open the doors like they did in California. I know a lot of the street people, the hippies and stoners would love that. This has got be professional business people.”

With promises of extreme profitability for those involved with Responsible Ohio, it is not unlikely that a small group of 10 growing facilities will reap the benefits of a multi-billion dollar industry.

However, a concentrated market, although easier to standardize, does not provide individual opportunity for those aching to get involved in the industry. It limits Ohioans in an unprecedented way by crushing the entrepreneurial spirit and allowing only those with big bucks to enter the marijuana industry.

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