Marijuana Legalization Would Create 35,000 Jobs In Ohio

In this Dec. 27, 2013 photo, employee Lara Herzog trims away leaves from pot plants, harvesting the plant's buds to be packaged and sold at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary, which is to open as a recreational retail outlet at the start of 2014, in Denver. Colorado is making final preparations for marijuana sales to begin Jan. 1, a day some are calling "Green Wednesday." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

A proposal to legalize marijuana that is likely headed toward Ohio’s fall ballot would create nearly 35,000 direct and indirect jobs in the state and generate an annual economic output of $7 billion, says a new report today coordinated by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters.

“Legalization is coming to Ohio. We need to accept the reality is going to happen,” Deters said at a press conference at the Ohio State University Moritz School of Law where the report, “Marijuana & Ohio, Past Present and Potential” was unveiled.

“Why in the world, knowing this is coming, would we let the bad guys make all the money?” Deters asked.

The report prepared by a task force appointed by Deters last month was funded exclusively by ResponsibleOhio, the organization pushing a constitutional amendment for the ballot that would legalize personal and medicinal use of marijuana.

Deters has not endorsed the ResponsibleOhio plan, but he has business ties to Chris Stock, an attorney and prime architect of the proposal. Both Deters and Stock work for the same law Cincinnati firm, Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley.

While the task force report did not take a position on the ResponsibleOhio proposal, it views legalization as generally positive, dismissing many concerns voiced by critics.

“Research suggests that legalization has not led to drastic increases in crime, adult or teen use, workplace injuries, or negatively impacted of aspects of public safety” the study said.

In another section, the report downplays concerns about impaired driving by marijuana users, saying, “evidence indicates that the risks associated with driving under its influence are dramatically less than those that accompany driving under the influence of alcohol.”

Using the IMPLAN economic forecasting model pioneered 30 years by the U.S. Forest Service, the task force projected a total of nearly 35,000 direct and indirect jobs would be created, the majority in the 1,000 retail marijuana sales locations ResponsibleOhio would permit. Other jobs would be created in cultivation (5,853), refinement and edibles production (3,393), and medical dispensaries (981).

The report said the total economic output of marijuana would be nearly $7 billion annually, with about $1.6 billion paid in work-related wages.

While the 187-page report had a largely positive view of legalization, not everyone was sold on its validity.

“It lacked transparency through the process, community and expert input, and reads like a document filled with campaign propaganda that this monopoly hopes will dupe Ohio’s citizens into voting for the worst public policy to ever come before the Ohio voters,” said Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance. “There was nothing fair and balanced about it.”

David Little, a Cincinnati public relations consultant hired by the task force, confirmed that ResponsibleOhio provided the only financial support for the report, including paying the services of some task force members. Deters and other members of the task force served with no pay.

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, who opposes the ResponsibleOhio plans, questioned the quick turnaround time for the lengthy report.

“The marijuana debate has been raging for 50 years,” Yost said on Twitter. “The Deters marijuana commission did a ‘comprehensive’ study in 30 days?”

Deters said he opposes the proposal advocated by Yost and other state officials to make it harder to get issues like the marijuana plan on the statewide ballot.

“I personally think it’s offensive to take this out of the voters’ hands,” he said.

Supporters of marijuana legalization are not all behind the ResponsibleOhio plan. Sri Kavuru, president of Ohioans to End Prohibition, a competing group, said he finds it “offensive that the people of Ohio are being asked to vote for an amendment to the Constitution that gives the exclusive right to 10 investment groups to grow and manufacture marijuana for sale. It is simply un-American for corporations to manipulate our state’s foundational document in this way.”

Deters surprised many when he said for the first time last month that he supported legalization and tight regulation of marijuana, primarily because current laws forbidding its sale and use are “useless,” discriminatory to minorities, and enforcing them is a “major waste of resources for law enforcement.” He has not taken a position on the ResponsibleOhio proposal.

ResponsibleOhio’s proposed constitutional amendment to legalize personal and medical use of marijuana appears likely to make it to the Nov. 3 general election ballot. The group has collected nearly double the required 305,591 signatures of registered Ohio voters needed to qualify for the ballot. The issue would permit 10 investment partnerships that contribute to the campaign to operate marijuana growing farms around the state. Sales of marijuana would be taxed at all whole and retail levels, with proceeds going primarily to local government. There is a provision for operation of dispensaries for medical marijuana for qualifying individuals.

Deters, who served as state treasurer from 1999 to 2004, is at odds on the marijuana legalization issue with all non-judicial statewide officeholders, including Gov. John Kasich, who oppose it.

Other members of the task for are William Breyer, former Hamilton County assistant prosecutor; Scott Greenwood, a civil rights attorney; Dan Margolis, former Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor; Frank Morris, Canton Council member; James Pasch, Beachwood Council member; the Rev. Donald Perryman, Center of Hope Baptist Church, Cincinnati; Howard Rahtz, former Cincinnati police captain and addiction counselor; John Russo, professor at the Williamson College of Business Administration, Youngstown State University; Christopher Smitherman, Cincinnati City Council member; Thomas Streicher, former Cincinnati police chief, and Michael Thomas, former chairman of the Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board.

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