Marijuana debate: Your questions answered

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Over 300 people attended a forum to discuss marijuana issues Wednesday evening at Sinclair Community College. The event, Marijuana: Dayton Decides was sponsored by Cox Media Group Ohio and the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton area. The forum panelists were (left to right) Douglas Berman, Ohio State law professor; Dr. Gary LeRoy, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine; Tonya Davis, a medical marijuana advocate; Ian James, executive director of Responsible Ohio and Chris Kershner, vice preident, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The Marijuana: Ohio Decides town hall forum hosted by the Dayton Daily News, WHIO Radio, Newscenter 7 and the League of Women Voters on Sept. 23 had more questions that we could get answered.

More than 300 people showed up for the forum at Sinclair Community College. The engaged audience had questions about the marijuana issue on Ohio’s ballot this fall. The crowd wanted to know how the constitutional amendment would impact safety, taxes, workplace issues and more.

Over 300 people, including Michael Wolfe of Dayton, attended a forum to discuss marijuana issues Wednesday evening at Sinclair Community College. The event, Marijuana: Dayton Decides was sponsored by Cox Media Group Ohio and the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton area. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Over 300 people, including Michael Wolfe of Dayton, attended a forum to discuss marijuana issues Wednesday evening at Sinclair Community College. The event, Marijuana: Dayton Decides was sponsored by Cox Media Group Ohio and the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton area. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Since we couldn’t get all of the questions answered in the 90-minute forum, in the coming weeks our Statehouse reporter Laura Bischoff is going to answer those questions for you.

Here’s some of the questions from the forum:

NEW QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Q: Will the cost of marijuana be determined and will it be as cheap as it is in the street now? How much of the cost will be decided by the government?

A: The market will determine the retail cost of legal marijuana. Legal manufacturers and product makers will pay a 15 percent flat tax and retailers will pay a five percent tax, plus other applicable business taxes. As a result, black market prices may still undercut the legal market prices. But buyers may be willing to pay a slightly higher price to know that it’s legal and the product has been tested for safety, quality and potency.

 

Q: How will state law protect growers, sellers and purchasers since it is still illegal at the federal level?

A: It won’t. Marijuana will still be considered a banned controlled substance under federal law.

 

Q: I hear that many people support marijuana legalization but are against Issue 3. Why? What’s their concerns?

A: Many grassroots advocates for marijuana legalization do not like how Issue 3 would grant all the commercial growing operations to 10 investor-controlled sites. Many also do not like the limits on home grow or the fact that home growers would be required to obtain a state license.

 

Q: Could marijuana legalization happen without amending the state constitution?

A: Yes. Lawmakers could change the state law or citizens could put forth a citizen-initiated statute to make the change.

 

Q: Will Issue 2 have any impact on the ability to home grow if both issues pass?

A: Yes. Issue 2 is designed in part to block Issue 3 from taking effect, even if Issue 3 passes. No home growing will be allowed unless Issue 3 takes effect.

 

PREVIOUSLY ANSWERED QUESTIONS

Q: Who will be on the marijuana control commission?

A: The governor will appoint the seven members of the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission: a licensed physician, a sworn law enforcement officer, an attorney with administrative law experience, a patient advocate, a resident with business experience, a resident with experience in the legal marijuana industry and a public member. People who have elected office in the eight years prior aren’t eligible for appointment.

Q: Won’t pot in edible form be too easily accessible for young kids?

A: It all depends on how the edibles are stored by adults. Advocates for legalization say that it would be similar to keeping watch over the liquor cabinet in households with teens. Opponents argue that edibles are marketed in kid-friendly flavors and forms that make them temping to children.

Q: Will the investors revenue be taxed or will they be tax exempt?

A: The state will levy a special 15 percent flat tax on the gross revenues of marijuana growers and marijuana processors and a 5 percent tax on gross revenues of retail stores. The weed businesses will also pay the state’s Commercial Activities Tax and other applicable business taxes. Medical marijuana dispensaries will pay the same taxes applied to other non-profit organizations.

Q: Will the Secretary of State Jon Husted or his office face any kind of reprimand or punishment for purposefully and willingly writing misleading wording to try to mislead voters on the ballot and then footing the bill to the tax payers trying to defend those actions in court? It seems to me that is a gross misuse of power by one of our own politicians to further their own agenda. Michael Reed, Miamisburg resident

A: The Supreme Court ordered the five member Ohio Ballot Board to re-do parts of the summary language, which it did. The court also ruled that Husted’s title for Issue 3 was accurate. That is the end of the dispute.

Q: The ResponsibleOhio website states a limit for the number of permit holders in one household, but the proposed amendment does not state a limit. Which is true?

A: People 21 or older will be allowed to grow, use, possess and share with other adults 21 and older homegrown marijuana. The limits are up to four flowering plants and eight ounces of usable weed at a given time. Homegrowers will be required to obtain a non-transferrable license that complies with Ohio Marijuana Control Commission rules. At a minimum, the rules will specify that home grow pot cannot be grown or consumed in public view and the growing must take place in an enclosed, locked space inaccessible to people under 21.

Q: Won’t legal pot consumption add to the number of incapacitated drivers on the road?

A: The amendment says no person shall operate, navigate or be in control of a vehicle, aircraft, train, or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana.

In Washington state, where recreational weed was approved in 2012, data is unclear about whether that has led to an increase in people driving under the influence of marijuana. Researchers said more time is needed to collect data and crunch the numbers.

Q: Will Issue 3 end up criminalizing young folks who are underage if caught with marijuana?

A: If Issue 3 passes it would legalize marijuana purchase, possession and use for adults aged 21 and older. Unless current state law changes, penalties would stay in place for those younger 21. In the 1970s, Ohio decriminalized possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana so violations are minor misdemeanors that can result in $150 fine but no jail time and no criminal record. Penalties and jail time for possession of more than 100 grams increase with the amounts.

Q: When the demand exceeds the market, how is the state going to establish who will be next for licensing?

A: If Issue 3 passes and the 10 growing sites aren’t meeting market demand, in four years the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission may issue a license for an additional growing facility. The constitutional amendment also grants the commission authority to revoke the licenses of any of the 10 growers for failure to follow state regulations and license another grower elsewhere. The amendment doesn’t spell out exactly how new licensees would be picked and it uses permissive language, meaning the state isn’t required to allow more growers.

Q: Can renters grow marijuana?

A: The amendment is silent on whether renters would be allowed to home grow marijuana. Home growers would have to be 21 or older, apply for a state license, and keep the grow in an enclosed, locked space inaccessible to people under 21 years old. This is probably an area that would be spelled out in future lease agreements.

Q: If Issue 3 doesn’t pass, how long before we can expect something else on the ballot for marijuana legalization?

A: There are mixed views on this. Some say another marijuana legalization proposal could emerge as early as 2016; others say it could be another 20 years. It takes substantial money and organization to collect 306,000 valid voter signatures to make the statewide ballot and then run a campaign in Ohio’s multiple media markets to sway voters. The marijuana market in Ohio is estimated to far exceed $1 billion. So much like casino gambling, there is a huge profit incentive to push for legalization.

Q: How does Issue 3 get affordable medical marijuana to the patients who may not be able to pay for it?

A: The amendment doesn’t require health insurance or government agencies to cover the costs of medical marijuana. The cannabis growers and product manufacturers would sell to not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries at their lowest wholesale prices. And the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission may establish a program to provide low-cost medical marijuana to patients unable to afford the full cost. Again, the amendment uses permissive language so the state won’t be required to set up such a program.

Q: Will smoking marijuana be allowed in public areas and events such as festivals and outdoor concerts?

A: No.

Q: Does the black market for drugs still exist in Colorado and Washington? Do the drug dealers disappear?

A: Yes, the black market still exists in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Black market providers are sometimes able to sell at a lower price because they don’t pay taxes, adhere to regulations or have overhead such as employee benefits or retail rent.

Q: Who would be on the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission and what safeguards will there be to make sure there are no conflicts of interest with investors and commissioners?

A: The governor would appoint seven members: a licensed physician, a law enforcement officer, an attorney with administrative law expertise, a patient advocate, a resident with a business background, a resident with experience in the legal marijuana industry and a member of the public. No one who has held elected public office in the previous eight years would be eligible. The amendment is silent on conflicts of interest but Ohio has an ethics law that could be applied to commissioners.


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