Election preview: Weeding through Issue 3’s pros and cons

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – ResponsibleOhio claims legal sales of marijuana in Ohio will generate $554,000 dollars in new tax revenue every year once the market stabilizes by the year 2020.

But how would that money be split among the state’s 88 counties, thousands of cities and townships? And do local leaders working on bare bones budgets think it’s worth it to legalize pot to make ends meet?

Issue 3 supporters say a 15% flat tax on marijuana growers and manufacturers and a 5% retail sales tax will boost local government budgets, fund police and fire departments, and pay for infrastructure improvements. 85% of that tax money will be split among Ohio’s counties, townships and municipalities on a per-capita basis, for public health and safety services.

But Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said revenue from legal weed sales in Colorado hasn’t been as high as expected. “It isn’t going for schools, it isn’t going to pave anybody’s road, it isn’t going to help law enforcement,” says Sheriff Greene. “What the money is being eaten up doing is the cost of regulating such a complex new law.”

That’s why proponents of Issue 3 say they did not follow in Colorado’s footsteps. ResponsibleOhio’s Executive Director Ian James says their plan starts with 10 commercial growing locations. The state can add one more after four years, if there’s enough demand.

“Colorado’s the wild west of weed,” says James. “Colorado started opening the door to everybody and anybody to grow marijuana, and essentially sell marijuana. It’s a bad system, it’s not well regulated, it’s not well monitored.”

Even after pleading with Mahoning County taxpayers to pass an additional 1/4% sales tax at the polls last year, Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti isn’t sold on the plan to legalize weed, no matter how much money they’ll make. “I don’t think it’s worth it, because on the other end of that, we’re still not going to get as much revenue as we are going to get problems with our young people.” says Rimedio-Righetti.

Coming up Monday night during the 90 minute 27 First News at 5 newscast, we’ll follow the money being spent on both sides of the marijuana legalization amendment. You’ve seen the ads on television; wait until you hear how much ResponsibleOhio shelled out to spread its message statewide. Also, what happens if both State Issues 2 and 3 pass? That’s Monday night on 27 First News at 5.

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