Ballot war over marijuana legalization budding in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Two proposed ballot measures to legalize medical and recreational marijuana have emerged in Ohio in less than a month.

The latest, on Thursday from Ohioans to End Prohibition, would legalize the purchase, possession and use of cannabis and cannabis products for Ohioans, ages 21 or older. The group hopes to get the Cannabis Control Amendment before voters in 2016.

Vice President Jacob Wagner said the measure differs from a proposal announced in December by Responsible Ohio, which calls for establishing 10 authorized growing locations around the state. The Ohioans to End Prohibition measure would not restrict individuals who want to grow marijuana at home for personal use, only retail sales.

Responsible Ohio hopes to put its ballot measure before voters this fall. The measure also would allow adults, 21 or older, to access marijuana as they do alcohol – through a market system that’s taxed and regulated by the state. Tax proceeds would be distributed to local communities, whose residents would have the power to approve or deny future retail locations through the ballot box.

Ohioans to End Prohibition favor a system where those with authorized medical conditions could get a patient identification card for buying medical marijuana tax-free. Wagner said language that’s being drafted would set up a hybrid system like no other in the country.

“We really just want to help Ohio get control over cannabis – production, retail, revenues,” Wagner said. “We want to give the people of Ohio a grip on this problem.”

Wagner said the announcement by Responsible Ohio prompted his group to accelerate rollout of its proposal, which has been under development for about a year and a half. The group aims to launch a revamped website and finalize the ballot language within the next few weeks.

A team of young professionals is behind the effort – combining expertise is law, cannabis policy, web design and grassroots political organization, said Wagner, a 29-year-old graduate of Case Western University’s law school.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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