COLUMBUS – If their proposal gets on the November ballot, and is approved by voters, ten people or investment groups will basically own the exclusive right to grow marijuana for legal sale in Ohio.
As their campaign, under the one-word name “ResponsibleOhio”, has gained traction, the people behind those investments (roughly $2 million apiece) have largely stayed behind-the-scenes, until now.
In an exclusive interview with FOX 8, Woody Taft said the proposal comes with a lot of risk to investors like himself on the front end, and an uncertain future on the back-end even if voters decide to legalize recreational and medical marijuana this November.
“My group is putting up $2 million dollars for the Butler County grow site,” Taft said. “I’m taking an extraordinary amount of risk. I’m taking personal risk, reputational risk, and all that entitles me to do is to start in a new industry that would be created here in Ohio.”
But opponents of legalized marijuana see it differently.
“They’re going to totally control the market in the state of Ohio,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine.
“So, even if you think this is a great idea, that we should have recreational use of marijuana in Ohio,” he added, “I don’t think this is the way to go about it.”
Supporters of the proposal said limiting the grow sites will allow the marijuana to be tightly regulated for both quantity and quality – avoiding some problems that have been experienced by Colorado – which allows basically anyone to grow marijuana for sale.
“There is no price-fixing. We’re not going to behave like a cartel,” Taft said, “and if we do, our licenses will be taken away from us.”
Under the proposal, a new state board would be set up to regulate the ten grow sites that are written into the law. Additional sites could be licensed if there is the demand for them.
The additional sites would be auctioned off.
The ten groups putting the money up– that is funding the campaign to get the issue on the ballot– would not have to pay for their sites that would be scattered around the state.
“I would think the way this group is going about it would them (voters) pause,” Attorney General DeWine said, “(because) why do you want to create a situation where a small number of people make all the money?”
But supporters said many people would benefit from what they call a “new economy” that would be created.
There would be no limit on retail stores.
Supporters said up to 1,000 pot shops could open, and up to 10,000 people could be employed at new jobs throughout the industry.
They project over $500,000,000 in impact, including from taxes on legalized pot, once the market stabilizes by the year 2020.
“With ten people competing against each other, the market is going to find the lowest price,” Taft said, “and there will be a cap. This is not going to be the bonanza that people expect it to be for the growers.”
Under the proposal, people could grow a small number of plants at home for personal use.
ResponsibleOhio has gathered about 250,000 signatures so far.
If it gets just under 306,000, and the signatures are verified, then the issue of whether Ohio should legalize recreational and medical marijuana under this proposal will be on the November ballot.