A competing marijuana legalization initiative has filed a complaint against ResponsibleOhio alleging infiltration and interference. The Ohio Rights Group, formed in January 2013, is accusing Ian James and David Bruno, the founders of the investor-financed ResponsibleOhio, of gaining inside knowledge under the pretense of supporting the Ohio Rights Group initiative prior to forming their own marijuana legalization measure. The complaint further alleges that James and Bruno used the inside information to interfere with operation of the Ohio Rights Group while laying the foundation for their ResponsibleOhio initiative.
The Ohio Rights Group was only able to collect 150,000 of the required 300,000 to get their Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment on the 2014 ballot.
The cover letter to the complaint (dated April 13, 2015) filed against ResponsibleOhio states:
“The actions of these individuals have had a devastating impact on our ability to raise funds, retain volunteers and motivate staff, thereby crippling the advancement” of the initiative.”
“This may have been a planned strategy by selected individuals intent on locking the wealthy into Ohio’s emerging billion-dollar cannabis industry during its infancy through funding a statewide ballot initiative that carves their financial interests into the Ohio Constitution and permits them to exclusively profit from those interests in perpetuity with minimal government interference,”
Spokeswoman for ResponsibleOhio, Lydia Bolander, is quoted as saying about Ohio Rights Group’s complaint:
“This is a bogus complaint. In their filing, they describe their own campaign as crippled, and now they’re blaming others – it’s just sad”
“ResponsibleOhio is excited to have an excellent team of campaign professionals working to pass the Marijuana Legalization Amendment this year. . . . We look forward to continuing this positive momentum in the coming months.”
ResponsibleOhio is the investor-funded initiative which has created controversy because of the stipulation that the investor group would be the sole recipients of commercial cannabis cultivation rights for the entire State of Ohio. These exclusive cultivation rights for the group would become law in the state.
Many marijuana advocates, including Ohio Rights Group and Ohioans to End Prohibition, have expressed concern that ResponsibleOhio initiative would create a cannabis monopoly in the state with accusations of greed and corporate takeover.
Whether the newly filed complaint slows down ResponsibleOhio’s drive to get on the 2015 ballot remains to be seen. The group recently announced that it has already collected over 160,000 signatures and are shooting for 700,000 by November.
The elections commission has scheduled a hearing on May 21, 2015 where it can choose to dismissed the case, impose a fine, or refer it for prosecution. One thing the complaint will no doubt achieve is bring added focus and debate about the ResponsibleOhio plan. Competition among competing marijuana ballot initiatives in Ohio is getting fierce!
What is your opinion? Will ResponsibleOhio initiative create a monopoly? Should it pass or should Ohioans wait for a better deal? Sound off in the comments below.