Lawmaker: Minority Stipulation in Ohio MMJ Law Unconstitutional

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Ohio’s new medical cannabis program is at least partially unconstitutional, according to a key lawmaker, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The problematic provision legally requires that at least 15% of the state’s MMJ licenses be awarded to one of four economically disadvantaged minority groups – Hispanics, Asians, African Americans or Native Americans, the AP reported.

And although racial preference laws have long failed to stand up in court as violations of the U.S. Constitution, and lawmakers knew that it could prove to be an issue down the road, it was left in the bill anyway to gain the necessary Democratic support in order to pass the legislature, according to a Cincinnati Republican lawmaker.

Part of the issue, the AP reported, was that Democrats felt it was important that minority communities benefit from MMJ legalization, given the well-documented disparity of racial discrimination when it comes to marijuana prosecutions.

The GOP lawmaker who identified the issue had drafted an amendment to the law, to make the 15% mark a goal instead of a requirement, but never introduced it because backers of the MMJ law were afraid to do so may have killed the bill altogether.

The question of the provision could come back to haunt the state, however, if it decides to cap the number of licenses and then sticks to the 15% requirement. That could open the door for lawsuits from Caucasian license applicants who lose out.