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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pot: How Responsible Is ResponsibleOhio?

Ohio investors continue to light up for ResponsibleOhio's proposed constitutional amendment. Some wonder which way the smoke will blow if the plan to legalize marijuana and purchase commercial growing sites makes the ballot and passes. Questions remain unanswered.

"Investors contributed $4 million to each of nine limited liability corporations tied to ResponsibleOhio last year, according to securities offering filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filings list James, ResponsibleOhio consultant Chris Stock and investor James Gould as promoters.

"ResponsibleOhio officials have said they expect to spend more than $20 million to get their constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot and passed by a majority of voters in November.

"ResponsibleOhio's proposed constitutional amendment would establish a legal marijuana industry fueled solely by marijuana grown at 10 sites, which would be owned and operated by investor groups."

(Jackie Borchardt. "$36 million raised for Ohio marijuana legalization proposal.
Plain Dealer Publishing Company. March 03, 2015)

It is reported that ten state-registered limited liability corporations have contributed $1.7 million to Responsiblehio's political action committee before the end of January, according to a campaign finance filing with the Ohio secretary of state. The group had spent $1.3 million at that point, mostly on political consulting from The Strategy Network, run by ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James, and attorneys.

Jackie Borchardt of the Plain Dealer says funneling campaign contributions through LLCs isn't illegal, but it adds another layer of mystery to a plan criticized for its secrecy. She reports Jon Allison of Drug Free Action Alliance said ...

"The almost complete lack of transparency that we've seen from this group makes it hard to comment intelligently on whatever they're trying to accomplish here. When they could come out and explain to the public exactly what they intend to do with these proposed sites and who's going to be involved, they choose instead not to do that."

ResponsibleOhio estimates the industry would reach $2 billion by the fourth year of operations, with $554 million in annual tax revenue for local governments, marijuana research and drug treatment by the fourth year of operation.

Spokesperson Lydia Bolander said changes reducing the tax paid by retail customers from 15 to 5 percent lowers the effective tax rate from between 30 and 35 percent to 22 percent -- lower than the effective rates on recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state.

And, one Columbus-area investor named by the group, Alan Mooney, speculated a stampede of possible investors in a "green rush" with marijuana business opportunities "beyond your imagination." Mooney said, "Let's hop on this tsunami of money and ride the top of that wave to some enrichment for us."

Mooney told the Daily News he supported legalization in part because of his time serving as a prison minister, saying enforcing marijuana laws are "costly and unjust." Mooney also appears to be an enterprising man of the cloth -- evidently in love with the "green" fabric, an affection he freely professes.

His online video promoting the amendment has been taken down. "Its content was not approved by the campaign, and it is not representative of the numerous other responsible investors who are working to increase safety, create jobs and offer adults the freedom to access marijuana for medical and personal use," Spokesperson Bolander said.

Well ...

Is the ResponsibleOhio plan mainly "responsible" to wealthy investors while concentrating on milking astronomical profits from those recreational toking middle class and poor "independence and liberty" decrying Buckeyes who claim their right to get high on a natural weed? Pulling huge clouds of smoke into Ohio lungs will certainly increase individuals' hospital costs and insurance premiums. Any and all negative consequences of Ohio legalization will most likely be absorbed by those underlings with limited funds.

Investors want huge returns. They employ every method in the book to draw supporters. They don't take a lot of time to consider the fallout of a promising investment opportunity. Their mission, in this case, is to turn the public tide into a flood of approval by concentrating on a campaign spearheaded by vague promises of increasing State coffers, and you can bet they possess significant greed that drives them to invest in order to greatly increase the gold in their own pocketbooks.

Here are a few key takeaways of the proposed amendment:

-The Marijuana Control Commission will oversee the manufacturing, selling, distributing and taxing of marijuana.
-Marijuana will be grown at 10 sites in Ohio to ensure the product is tightly regulated, and tested for safety and potency. These sites must be at least 1,000 feet from a school, public library, church or licensed day care.
-Anyone over 21 who passes a criminal background check can own and operate a store selling marijuana.
-The drug will be taxed at 15 percent. Medical marijuana will be sold at a wholesale price to patients with a doctor recommendation.
-85 percent of the tax revenue will go to municipalities, townships and counties.

Then ...

On February 18, ResponsibleOhio released a revised plan that would allow Ohioans to grow smaller amounts of marijuana at home. This is the proverbial olive branch to other pro-marijuana legalization groups in Ohio. Meanwhile, some wonder if this isn't more rhetoric to cloud the real intent of the issue.

The revised amendment allows adults over age 21 to own up to four flowering plants and possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana for personal use -- as long as they first obtain a homegrower's license from a yet-to-be created commission. Homegrown marijuana could not be sold and would have to be kept in an "enclosed, locked space inaccessible to persons under the age of 21." The proposal does not include any regulations regarding where people obtain their homegrown marijuana plants.

A license would cost $50, but all other requirements would be left up to the commission to decide.

Jon Allison, a spokesman for Ohio's Drug-Free Action Alliance, questioned ResponsibleOhio's commitment to helping local governments, which under the amendment, would not be allowed to block construction of the grow facilities and receive less revenue with the group's newly proposed lower retail tax.

"It's a mystery to me how they think they can build trust with Ohio's voters when they're not only playing hide the ball, but they're on their second round of language and who knows if that will stick," Allison said.

(Jackie Borchardt. "ResponsibleOhio adds homegrow, changes grow site in marijuana legalization proposal." Plain Dealer Publishing Company. February 19, 2015)

Now ...

Amassing fortunes and appeasing personal recreational desires represent part of the outcome of legalization. Responsible citizens must also consider the potential of negative physical and mental health outcomes and dangerous work consequences such as loss of productivity and an increase in hazardous conditions. Then, of course, there is the acceptance of the need just to "get high" and the effect of that philosophy on future generations.

America is a unique nation in that comparisons with other cultures hold little value in terms of the country's insatiable appetite for drugs, for pleasure, and for pain relief. No one knows if adding legalization to a current health epidemic will help produce better, more responsible citizens or just put more "fire" on the "fire."

Those is favor of legalizing pot love to speculate how this freedom will solve a million ills -- from finance to pain relief to some kind of liberty to be stoned just like beer drinkers' present freedom to get drunk. A beer ... a pill ... a joint ... where in this mix is moderation and the courage and responsibility to face reality while sober? Children, please don't take up any vice: Your lives will be so much better without doing so. It must be said despite arguments to the contrary.  

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