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Could Ohio Be the First to Legalize Cannabis in the Midwest?

Published on August 15, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

After a last-minute fight to the finish line, Ohio’s legalization campaign, ResponsibleOhio, managed to submit an additional 95,000 signatures to squeak by with a total of 320,000 signatures to get the recreational proposal on the November 2015 ballot.

The group spent approximately $2.4 million on signature gathering for the initiative, and while they turned in roughly 700,000 signatures, more than half of them (about 400,000) were deemed invalid. The campaign was given an extra 10 days to meet the 305,591 signatures needed, giving ResponsibleOhio time to surpass the minimum requirement.

This Ohio proposal is unlike any of the recreational legalization proposals in that it would essentially create a monopoly, or an oligopoly, wherein there would be 10 licensed growing operations around the state that would be owned exclusively by the investors who are funding the campaign.

Curious as to who these investors are? Their names have been released and they're many of Ohio’s elite and local celebrities:

  • Oscar Robertson, former Cincinnati Royals basketball player
  • Frostee Rucker, defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns
  • Nanette Lepore, fashion designer
  • Rich Kirk, real estate developer
  • Frank Wood, CEO of Secret Communications
  • Barbara & James Gould, The Walnut Group
  • Sir Alan Mooney, board member of the Ohio Council of Churches
  • William Foster, entrepreneur
  • William Pruett, president and CEO of DMP Investments
  • John Humphrey, CFO of DMP Investments
  • Bobby George, real estate developer

Ohio is an unusual legalization example because the state has not legalized any form of medical marijuana, and this initiative would be the first in the United States to legalize medical and recreational cannabis at the same time. While the initiative has passed this hurdle, the election may prove to be a difficult battle as voter turnout for a non-presidential election year is generally lower than usual.

In the wake of some advocates noting that under ResponsibleOhio's proposed initiative, production and distribution would be limited only to wealthy investors, Ohio Legislature has placed House Joint Resolution 4 on the November ballot. This measure would prohibit monopolies, oligopolies, and cartels conferring a commercial interest, right, or licenses to another person or entity that is not available to similarly situated entities from being written into the Ohio Constitution, which is precisely what ResponsibleOhio is attempting to do. Basically, if House Joint Resolution 4 were to pass, it would nullify ResponsibleOhio's initiative even if it were to also pass.

November will be here before we know it – will voters turn out?

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
View Lisa Rough's articles
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