On Tuesday, Ohio may become the fifth state that has legalized the use of recreational marijuana.
Yet the story line there is not as much about how a culturally conservative state feels about marijuana and more about how a group of sharp political and business operatives are creating a new path forward for the expanding movement that could fundamentally alter who gets in the game and why.
Depending on how things pan out with Ohio, the next iteration of pro-legalization activists could be motivated by an entirely different kind of green: Cash.
This is what you need to know about Ohio’s unusual ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and how it could alter the marijuana legalization movement.
There are a lot of firsts in Ohio, actually. If recreational marijuana is legalized, Ohio would become the first Midwestern state and the first privately organized legalization campaign, notes Denver-based journalist Josiah M. Hesse in a Politico magazine piece.
Ohio as well would become the first state to attempt to legalize recreational and medical marijuana at once. However, it is what happens after legalization that really sets Ohio’s initiative apart. It’s a constitutional amendment supported and funded almost exclusively by those who stand to benefit from its passage.
The owners of the 10 farms include a grab-bag group of 24 investors that include former 98 Degrees boy-band crooner Nick Lachey, as well as descendants of former president William Howard Taft and NBA star Oscar Robertson. If the amendment obtains a green light, they’ll be ground-floor investors in a business that advocates project will bring in $1 billion a year.
Each ownership group was asked to invest nearly $2 to $4 million in the ResponsibleOhio campaign supporting the cause for marijuana legalization.
And that is exactly the issue, for example, say a diverse group of opponents that includes marijuana legalization advocates, who are joining forces with the usual cast of opponents like law enforcement officers. Ohio’s constitution could soon ultimately enshrine these people’s opportunity to make money, explains The Washington Post’s Jessica Contrera.
The idea is so controversial that, in July, state lawmakers through their own ballot initiative out there to counter this one.