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Yellow Springs Marijuana Forum Draws Loud Crowd

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Jerry Kenney

A forum in Yellow Springs Thursday evening about marijuana legalization drew a vocal crowd of about 75. Participants asked panelists about Issue 3, which would amend the constitution to legalize marijuana possession and sales, and give growing rights to a limited number of landowners. Many questioners were pro-legalization.

 

“Issue 3 does not create a demand, that demand is already here, and there’s plenty of growers already filling that demand in Ohio now,” said one attendee, to cheers from the crowd.

 

But others expressed misgivings about marijuana legalization, including concerns about drug addiction and health and safety. Data from other states on the effects of legalization is mostly too new to draw conclusions from, although a recent study out of Colorado found increases in use among juveniles as well as increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths.

 

The forum also addressed Issue 2, which would effectively cancel out Issue 3 by prohibiting constitutional monopolies in the state of Ohio. It’s unclear what will happen if both pass on November 3.

 

Luan Heit, of Yellow Springs, said she doesn’t think people should be criminalized for marijuana possession and sales, “But...my initial reaction to Issue 3 was, this is like a monopoly. It’s not free enterprise, and that’s what our system is based on.”

 

The legalization amendment allows people to get permits to home grow up to four marijuana plants, but it would still be illegal to sell that. The only permitted growers for the first four years would be a small group of investors who already own or have options on the grow sites listed in the amendment; after four years, another site could be added based on demand.

 

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Credit Jerry Kenney

Brice Keller represented ResponsibleOhio, the group that put the amendment on the ballot for November and has been pushing it through a $20 million campaign. He defended the proposal, arguing that legalization is a social justice issue and that large investment is needed to make a ballot issue viable.

 

Chris Kershner from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce spoke on behalf of business owners who oppose the law because of concerns about increased drug use among employees. He also criticized the limitations on growers in the proposal, calling it an unfair monopoly that excludes smaller entrepreneurs.

 

Laura Bischoff of the Dayton Daily News and Lewis Wallace of WYSO asked questions of the panelists, and Bischoff spoke on her reporting from the state of Washington, where marijuana was recently legalized and a large industry is ramping up.

 

ResponsibleOhio estimates a tax impact of $554 million a year by 2020, based on a 15 percent flat tax for growers and a 5 percent flat tax for retailers. The lion’s share would go directly to local governments, with 15 percent of the revenue going back to the state. While the number of growers would be limited by their proposal, the number of retail licenses could go up to 1,100.

 

Many at the forum asked about decriminalization, and what the penalties would be for people under age 21 and for people caught driving under the influence. The constitutional amendment legalizes marijuana possession and use only for people 21 and over, and calls for enhanced penalties for those who transfer marijuana to underage people. Those enhanced penalties, as well as matters of enforcement, would remain in the hands of the state legislature and the municipalities enforcing the new rules.

 

Anything pertaining to the regulation and sales of marijuana and marijuana-related products would be regulated by a Marijuana Control Commission appointed by the governor.