Backers of Failed Ohio Legalization Effort Announce 2018 Push

Don't call it a comeback! It's unclear whether Buddie, the notorious mascot for ResponsibleOhio's failed 2015 legalization bid, will return for an encore performance. (John Minchillo/AP)

The backers of a cannabis legalization measure that Ohio voters roundly rejected in 2015 are giving the effort another go, unveiling a plan to put a new legalization initiative on the state’s November 2018 ballot.

The co-founders of ResponsibleOhio are back, this time with a 'free market' measure.

Cincinnati investor Jimmy Gould and business partner Ian James of Columbus, co-founders of the legalization group ResponsibleOhio, announced on Monday the proposed “Free Market Adult Consumption of Marijuana” ballot measure, which would legalize cannabis for adults over 21, allow home cultivation, and establish a licensing system for retail sales.

The group has until early July to collect valid signatures from 305,592 registered voters to qualify the constitutional amendment for November’s election.

Unlike ResponsibleOhio’s 2015 measure, which was written to limit commercial cultivation to 10 preselected sites owned by campaign investors, the new initiative would establish a free-market system without “self-selection,” Gould said at a press conference earlier this month. Voters rejected the 2015 initiative by a 2-to-1 margin.

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Never Say Never Again

Immediately following the failed 2015 campaign, which would have legalized both medical and adult-use cannabis, ResponsibleOhio said it would seek to put the issue on the ballot in 2016. Months later, however, Gould reversed course, saying the group was dead and that the state Legislature would be the best route to legalize medical cannabis.

Lawmakers indeed went on to pass a medical bill, which Gov. John Kasich signed in June 2016. A company headed by Gould and James, CannAscend, applied for one of the state’s 12 large-grower licenses but wasn’t among those selected by regulators last month. According to a Dayton Daily News report, the company’s license application “was disqualified for an unknown reason.”

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A day later, at a news conference, Gould criticized what he said were “fatal flaws” in the selection process and announced that he and several other unsuccessful applicants were considering legal action. CannAscend further called the selection process into question when the company revealed that a state medical marijuana consultant, Trevor Bozeman, who helped score the applications, was convicted of a cannabis crime in 2005 as a 21-year-old university student.

The state’s Commerce Department, for its part, has defended the selection process.

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Homegrow Yes, Public Consumption No

A document circulated at Monday’s press release highlighted details of the plan, the Dayton Daily News reports:

* Would allow for legal cultivation, possession, processing and dispensing by people 21 or older.

* Would not impact the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

* Would not allow for public consumption.

* You can grow your own marijuana, but cannot sell it without a license.

* Cities, townships, etc. can approve the number of commercial marijuana businesses that may be permitted to operate in their community.