Failed Ohio Cannabis Campaign Promises to Keep Fighting

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By John Schroyer

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Leaders of a failed bid to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis in Ohio vowed Tuesday night to continue their efforts to establish a regulated marijuana market in the state, regardless of the fact that voters rejected the initiative by a whopping 64% to 36%.

“The work continues. It’s not over,” Ian James – executive director of ResponsibleOhio, the campaign behind the legalization measure – said to a cheering room of supporters when it was clear that the proposal would not come anywhere close to passing. “This is a bump in the road.”

Jimmy Gould, a key player in ResponsibleOhio’s plan who helped corral multimillion dollar investors for the legalization push, suggested that the campaign has already made up its mind to try again in 2016.

“We will learn from what the voters have said tonight, and we’ll come back with a plan that works for everybody,” Gould said to raucous applause. “We will climb that mountain. We’re going to change the status quo. We will do everything we have to do.”

That was just before ResponsibleOhio issued a press release titled “The Campaign Starts Anew Tomorrow.”

So it looks as though the group isn’t throwing in the towel. But ResponsibleOhio could make some serious changes to its proposal given the resounding defeat this year and the passage of Issue 2.

Issue 2, which received 52% of the vote, basically undercuts the primary structure of ResponsibleOhio’s initiative by expressly prohibiting political campaigns from setting up oligopolies. ResponsibleOhio’s measure would have given control of all 10 cultivation sites allowed under the proposal to a group of wealthy investors who contributed to the campaign.

“Several polls leading up to Election Day showed that a clear majority of Ohioans support legalizing marijuana, but voters won’t tolerate this issue being taken over by greedy special interests,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, said in a statement.

Aside from the controversial cultivation stipulation, the campaign behind the measure stumbled several times. Its cartoon-like mascot (pictured), for instance, rubbed many industry professionals and observers the wrong way.

Andy Joseph – the CEO of Ohio-based Apeks Supercritical, which makes extraction systems of cannabis companies – rejoiced that Issue 3 failed. But Joseph said he credits ResponsibleOhio with bringing cannabis to the forefront of state politics.

“The work really starts now. Today. Tomorrow. We can’t just sit back and say we’re going to keep going and the status quo. Wrong answer,” Joseph said.

But Joseph said the onus is now on the legislature to act, adding that he hopes state lawmakers will take a lesson from the fact that 35% of voters “want marijuana no matter what.” And if the legislature doesn’t act, then ResponsibleOhio will likely be back in 2016 with another “disgusting display of corporate greed,” Joseph said.

One major investor in the campaign, California-based Brian Kessler, said he’d be open to a ballot measure that only legalizes medical cannabis.

“For sure I would, because it takes the right step,” Kessler said Tuesday afternoon before election results were announced. “It doesn’t make me thrilled because people are still buying recreational illegally, and I don’t like that. But if the way to get started is with MMJ… and that’s the best way to do it, I’m open to it.”

John Schroyer can be reached at