Campaigns Begin For Pot Supporters, Opponents

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A small RV painted with green marijuana plants and a message urging Ohioans to legalize marijuana served as a backdrop for ResponsibleOhio's Faith Oltman as she spoke with reporters in front of the Ohio Statehouse.  Oltman says the plan, which would allow ten growing sites in Ohio and would regulate the retail sale and possession of pot, should be passed by the state's voters this fall.

"ResponsibleOhio's proposal would bring tens of thousands of jobs to our state and a wide variety of entrepreneurial opportunities. Legalizations will offer sick Ohioans the compassionate care that medical marijuana can provide. It will bring back millions of tax dollars to our communities each year and establish a brand new industry with limitless development opportunities," Oltman says.

Oltman says this plan will finally allow local communities to benefit from the sale and use of pot.  She says the sale and regulation of marijuana would make it safer for Ohio's children because retailers, unlike drug dealers, would be carding people who purchase the plant to make sure they are 21 years old. She says those who oppose the plan are not taking that into consideration.

"Their unfortunate stance means they are protecting drug dealers who don't pay taxes, care about sick people, create legitimate jobs or i.d. kids before they sell to them," Oltman says.

Oltman says this plan will help Ohio's communities by pumping dollars back into local economies.  For example, her group estimates nearly $52 million a year could be added to Franklin County's coffers alone. And Oltman says as she tries to take her message throughout Ohio, she'll be telling other cities what they could expect to receive if they pass the proposed constitutional amendment.  Oltman expect backers of her plan will have about $20 million on hand to put out television ads to tell people why they should vote this fall to put it in the state's constitution.  But there's another group that plans to oppose ResponsibleOhio. It is a coalition of health advocates, politicians, business leaders and others. Curt Steiner, a spokesman for that group says this plan is bad for Ohio because it would allow for the proliferation of marijuana. His side notes it would allow 1150 retail marijuana stores in Ohio, more locations than Starbucks or McDonalds, and nearly three times the number of state liquor stores. Further he says this proposal would not stop the criminal element now posed by marijuana.

"Basically every Ohio couple could have more than a pound of dope in their house legally. I can guarantee you that some of that is going to be sold to people on the black market. This was not done to stop the black market. This was done to line the pockets of rich investors who put the proposal together," Steiner says.

Steiner says he is concerned because it add 6500 words to the constitution and increase the length of the constitution by 12 percent. He says there's a lot more in there than just legalizing marijuana.  That's something that also bothers Ohio's former Attorney General, Republican Betty Montgomery.

"This is not about the freedom to smoke marijuana. It is all about money and to buy a franchise in this constitution, it is deplorable," Montgomery says.

The ballot board has yet to determine the exact wording voters will see on the ballot this fall. But both sides already seem to know it will be worded in such a way so that passing the plan will take a "yes" vote and defeating it will be a "no" vote. And if that's switched around at the ballot board, ResponsibleOhio will have to repaint its bus that says "yes on legalization."

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