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August 29, 2015 at 4:30 PM, updated August 30, 2015 at 4:06 AM
T-shirts with marijuana slogans, cannabis-infused beverages, packaging for marijuana products are among the endless possibilities Ohioans can come up with, according to Alan Mooney, a Columbus-area investor in ResponsibleOhio’s legalization campaign.
“Ohio is going to dominate in this world — you guys are going to do that,” Mooney told attendees at a marijuana business conference held here. “You’re not just going to be in Ohio — this is just maybe where you’re getting started. You’re going to end up with an opportunity because the whole world is going to watch what we’re doing.”
Issue 3 would legalize marijuana sales and use to adults over age 21, making Ohio the fifth state to allow recreational use and the first to legalize without first having a medical marijuana program. All commercial marijuana could only be grown on 10 pre-selected sites owned by investors bankrolling the initiative, but Ohioans could grow small amounts for personal use.
If approved by voters, marijuana could be sold at retail storefronts as soon as October 2016. Issue 3 would allow up to 1,150 retail stores in Ohio — more than the number of Starbucks and McDonalds stores in Ohio. Retail licenses would have to first be approved in local elections, similar to liquor licenses.
On Saturday, Mooney defended ResponsibleOhio’s plan to conference attendees who were critical of the limited grow sites.
Mooney is a co-owner of the Licking County marijuana farm, which he said would only grow strains of marijuana for medical use. He said ResponsibleOhio’s plan represents a compromise and other pro-marijuana groups have not been able to get on the ballot.
“Those are 10 corporations — how many people do you think it takes to fill those corporations? There are thousands of people already involved,” Mooney said.
ResponsibleOhio plans to spend more than $20 million to convince voters to approve their issue. Mooney and his fellow investors have shielded how much they’ve actually raised and contributed to the campaign through a network of limited liability companies created in the past year.
Mooney said without deep pockets, a marijuana initiative would never make it on the Ohio ballot.
Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, the coalition of law enforcement, medical associations and others opposing Issue 3, has said the amendment is nothing more than a money-making scheme for the investors.
“So far, it appears that the only ones supporting ResponsibleOhio’s plan are the limited number of wealthy investors backing the campaign who will financially benefit if the proposal passes,” Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies spokeswoman Jen Detwiler said in an email Saturday.
Ohionans will also vote this fall on a legislature-sponsored measure — Issue 2 — that would prohibit monopolies from being written into the Ohio Constitution. If both Issues 2 and 3 pass, the prevailing measure would likely be decided in court.
About 80 people attended Saturday’s conference, which aimed to help future entrepreneurs better understand pending legislation such as Issue 3 and how people in other states have built businesses in an industry that goes against federal law.
Mooney was joined by representatives from Ohioans to End Prohibition, which is circulating a recreational and medical marijuana petition for the 2016 ballot, and Ohio Rights Group, which would legalize only medical marijuana.
Sri Kavuru, president of Ohioans to End Prohibition, said it’s important to build a proper regulatory framework the first time and ResponsibleOhio’s plan is fatally flawed. Kavuru said if ResponsibleOhio wanted to compromise, they would have listened to more people while drafting the amendment.
“It’s very clear it is not a compromise, but it’s an attempt to amend the constitution to create a special financial benefit for a small group of people,” Kavuru said in an interview.