ResponsibleOhio: The Upside

responsibleohio-ohio-marijuanaWARNING: Hell has frozen over. Ohio, situated right about where America’s rust belt meets the Bible belt, is flirting with full marijuana legalization. The effort is being spearheaded by ResponsibleOhio, a marijuana legalization campaign sponsored by a well-funded investor group based in Columbus. The group has raised $36 million from 10 investors throughout the United States.

In other states to date, grassroots activists, typically working in partnership with a national legalization organization like NORML or the Marijuana Policy Project, have gained the voter support necessary to pass medical marijuana or pro-pot voter referendums. In this respect, Ohio is setting itself apart and gaining national news, especially among those who strongly favor or oppose full legalization of pot.

Can They Really?

Pot fans should hold off on that celebratory toke, however. ResponsibleOhio, which technically is a Political Action Committee, or PAC, has already collected more than 550,000 signatures, more than the necessary 306,000 by July 1. Passage of the law will come down to how effectively the group can educate and influence voters between now and November 3. Also, because the 2015 election in Ohio will feature no major national or state races, it’s considered an “off-off-year.” This typically results in older and more conservative citizens actually casting votes. Despite this, ResponsibleOhio says it has the resources to inform the voter base and win majority support for the bill. It also believes that activist organizations and legalization proponents, even early holdouts, will support it.

ResponsibleOhio’s Executive Director, Ian James, said his organization will have

“…the only [marijuana] issue on the ballot and the only one that has the resources to win.” He added, “To vote down the only possibility you have to legalize marijuana would be foolhardy.”

The group predicts that the legal sale of medical and recreational cannabis in the state could generate $554 million in tax revenues by 2020.

Critics have called this figure overly optimistic, citing the fact that Colorado in 2014 generated only about 10 percent of this figure, or $53 million, in taxes. It should be noted, however, that 2014 was the first year of Colorado’s legalization. If this bill becomes law in Ohio, 2020 would mark four years of the law having been in effect. Also, Colorado has a population of only 5.4 million, versus Ohio’s 11.6 million residents.

According to Chrissie Thompson, writing for Cincinnati.com:

“The group is putting another $20 million into developing 10 marijuana farms across the state—anchoring the effort in Southwest Ohio, with three farms in Greater Cincinnati and one just north in Montgomery. The exclusive growing market has been called everything from a ‘monopoly’ to a ‘cartel’ by anti-marijuana politicians and traditional marijuana supporters alike.”

The Good

The good part of this pending legislation is that it would bring both medical marijuana, even for youths, and fully legal recreational pot smoking to the Buckeye State, a midwestern bastion best known for being a swing state in presidential elections, top-shelf college football, and more Amish residents than the state of Pennsylvania. Citizens 21 and older would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of cannabis with no medical exemption or license necessary. They would also be permitted to grow up to four mature (flowering) plants.

DistroInforgraphic-500x500The investment group behind ResponsibleOhio—and its associated independent companies—would maintain a lock on the cultivation of cannabis in their 10 facilities across the state. However, more than 1,100 “retail and manufacturing” licenses would be made available to the public.

These facilities might produce everything from joints and ounce jars to stealthy edibles and canna-candy. Often, these retail and manufacturing businesses would literally be packaging and branding companies. However, unlike the regulated but open market in Colorado, these companies would be limited to sourcing their herb from the 10 authorized production facilities.

An important aspect of this legislation is the positive economic impact it would have. Ohio has been one of the worst states in terms of unemployment and a sluggish recovery. Any stimulus to its economy would certainly be a good thing, especially if it helps fund fire stations and the repair of Ohio’s pothole-riddled roads (as outlined in the bill, which can be read here).

The taxes derived from the production and sale of legal marijuana would benefit a rust belt state that has seen residents leaving for good jobs in other areas. Like many regions, Ohio is also suffering from an increasingly aging population of baby boomers who, if living on retirement, produce no income taxes. Despite a hefty licensing fee, entrepreneurs and marijuana advocates will have the opportunity to open retail and manufacturing facilities in which they can satisfy a burning need in their communities—while making an honest (if not highly regulated) living.

Ohio Marijuana Control Commission

This bill would also create the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission (OMCC), comprised of seven members, all of whom would be appointed by the governor. Given that the governor of Ohio is currently a fairly conservative Republican, this is, for many, an unpleasant reality. Here’s the language of the amendment: The OMCC would “regulate the acquisition, growth, cultivation, extraction, production, processing, manufacture, testing, distribution, retail sales, licensing, and taxation of medical marijuana, marijuana and marijuana-infused products and the operations of marijuana establishments, and the growth and cultivation of homegrown marijuana.”

34306114001_4001302384001_video-still-for-video-4001343279001The amendment also calls for special taxes. Manufacturing and retail facilities would be required to pay a 15 percent tax, while consumers would be hit with a five percent tax on top of standard Ohio sales tax (these rates are lower than those in Colorado and Washington). Militant activists may scream about this, but it isn’t that different from how alcohol and tobacco are regulated and taxed across the nation.

According to the language of the amendment, the OMCC “would also serve as a clearing house for scientific and medical research on medical marijuana, marijuana and marijuana-infused products.” This could, in a perfect world, be very good. It would be beneficial to all parties, including consumers, if the Commission encouraged and maybe even funded plentiful academic and corporate research into the medical efficacy and strain specificity of cannabis.

This would, in theory, allow the 10 cultivation facilities to continually improve their product, something very much in the best interest of pot buyers and patients. If fully legal recreational herb was established in the state, there would surely be plenty of private and public research and analysis conducted on the output of the 10 ResponsibleOhio production facilities.

Cultivation + Retail

The ability to grow up to four plants is one of the most democratic and egalitarian aspects of this bill. While the right to legally grow any number of plants in a traditionally conservative state like Ohio would be amazing in and of itself, some activists and chronic pot smokers will predictably want higher limits. However, this limit is actually higher than those in Colorado and Washington, D.C. (three mature plants), equal to Oregon’s recreational limit, and close to recently legalized Alaska’s allowance of six plants. Washington State, which, along with Colorado, was among the first two states to legalize marijuana for recreational consumption, has actually prohibited cultivation.

It must also be recognized that this would be a limit for flowering plants. Thus, depending on the final language of the law, growers could potentially keep a dozen or more veg-stage plants alive, choosing only the best and healthiest to go into full flower and be counted among the four. If cultivated properly and continually, this limit could easily serve the needs of all over-21 adults living at a residence, producing pot (or medicine) with a regularity, affordability, and quality impossible on the black market.

OpportunitiesForOhioans1However, those who choose to grow at home won’t be able to just jump right in. The amendment, which would define a relatively highly regulated industry in Ohio, would require a $50 per year licensing fee and registration with the state. Many libertarians who fear big government will see just more red tape and taxes. However, given the expense of street cannabis (sometimes in excess of $100 per quarter ounce in the state), $50 per year and the cost of a few grow lights, nutrients, and electricity is a powerful incentive to help eliminate the criminal elements that prey on a black market. Not to mention saving regular pot smokers hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.

If passed, this law would funnel money into taxes and consumer spending, stimulating the legal economy instead of funding criminals who may also produce and sell highly addictive hard drugs like meth and crack. If properly executed and managed, a legalization scheme of this type could significantly reduce criminal activity, decreasing hard drug addiction and offering an alternative to alcohol and its negative physical manifestations (and their associated financial burden to society).

The retail and manufacturing licenses that would be sold wouldn’t be free or even cheap. RMSs, or Retail Marijuana Stores, would be required to pay a $10,000 annual licensing fee. This is similar to liquor licenses regulated by most states. The registration fee is a realistic business expense that helps enlist more professional and properly funded individuals and organizations. While sure to frustrate some “mom and pop” grassroots activists, this registration fee is a way of helping ensure the participation of legitimate companies with sufficient funding to properly serve customers.

Medical

The amendment also provides language specific to medical patients. It creates “licensed not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries (‘MMD’) to dispense medical marijuana to patients with debilitating medical conditions and to their Commission licensed caregivers with a medical marijuana certification issued by the patient’s current treating physician…” Registered medical patients would be able to purchase cannabis at wholesale prices.

dscn2108.jpgThe biggest reason that some Ohio and national marijuana activists are understandably critical of the efforts of ResponsibleOhio is what would be its monopoly on marijuana production. However, to average pot-smoking Ohio citizens, who currently grow and consume marijuana illegally—many of whom have been convicted and jailed for it—the legislation proposed by ResponsibleOhio would bring significant reform and multiple benefits.

In reality, the manufacturing facilities would be owned by different individuals and companies. According to CNNMoney, “the group stresses that the growing facilities would be operated by separate companies that would compete on price and quality.” On its website, ResponsibleOhio states, “There is no coordination between them, they will be trying to make money by selling the best goods at the best prices to stores, dispensaries, and manufacturers.” Thus, it would be a closed market in terms of not allowing just anyone to begin the mass cultivation of cannabis to sell (technically, it sounds like a limited franchise). However, it would not be a monopoly and, in theory, involve no price fixing due to the competition between the 10 authorized manufacturing companies.

Keith Stroup, founder and legal council of NORML, recently published a blog in which he addressed the issue of venture capital-backed voter referendums. He wrote, “Different people will come to different conclusions. I continue to feel we should keep our eye on the prize of legalization, and not get sidetracked fighting over who will profit from legalization. After all, we live in a free enterprise system and we should not expect legal marijuana will be different.”

The details of this bill, including the licensing fees and tax structure, will probably evade the average Ohioan who votes this fall. For those who are tuned into the details, it will be interesting to see those who will support and oppose this controversial, but groundbreaking, ballot initiative—and why. This amendment to Ohio’s Constitution would, after all, allow residents to legally grow, purchase, possess, and smoke marijuana.

That’s no small thing. Especially for the Buckeye State. Because, after all, not even Seattle or Los Angeles has it that good.

— Gooey Rabinski


HBK11RenderGooey Rabinski is a counterculture writer who has contributed to magazines such as High Times, Cannabis CultureSkunk, Heads, Weed World, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana (2015 Edition), available on Amazon Kindle.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

A Brief History of Medical Marijuana

The following is an excerpt from my book Understanding Medical Marijuana. This is Chapter 4: A Brief History of Medical Marijuana.

— Gooey Rabinski


Those who think medical marijuana has been in common use only since the mid ‘90s, or maybe since the hippy revolution of the late 1960s, are a few thousand years off. Medical applications based on cannabis have been employed for millennia in most cultures of the world, especially India, Asia, the Middle East, South Africa, and South America.

HBK11RenderDespite today’s prohibition, hundreds of medical cannabis products were mainstream in the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In fact, commercially available cannabis tinctures were the primary form of pain relief until aspirin was introduced in the early twentieth century (patented by Bayer in 1900, aspirin was sold first as a powder; tablets didn’t became available until 1915).

That’s right: Until the dawn of the 20th century, pot—albeit in tincture form, not smoked—was the primary form of pain killer in the United States. One hundred years ago, if a young girl skinned her knee, she was given a marijuana tincture, not an orange and white Bayer aspirin.

10,000 Years of Use

The medical use of cannabis is likely more than 10,000 years old. Historical evidence from the Bronze Age (in the 3rd millennium BC) reveals cultures that inhaled cannabis smoke, as indicated by the discovery of charred cannabis seeds in a ritual brazier (primitive barbeque) at a burial site in what is presently Romania.

Solid evidence also comes from the reign of Chinese Emperor Chen Nung, 5,000 years ago, when cannabis was recommended for malaria, rheumatism, constipation, and menstrual cramps. In 1621, nearly half a millennia ago, English clergyman Robert Burton suggested cannabis for the treatment of depression.

In the United States, medical cannabis became common in the mid-nineteenth century. Doctors in the 1800s literally understood the benefits of cannabis better than contemporary physicians, publishing more than 100 papers on the topic. In 1854, cannabis was listed in the United States Dispensatory (an unofficial listing of medical drugs) and commercial remedies based on cannabis were readily available in drugstores and pharmacies in every community.

what-is-a-cannabis-tincture-7

Dentists even used it in the mouth and on the tongue as a topical anesthetic. According to Lester Grinspoon, a professor at Harvard Medical School and medical marijuana expert, some pharmacists attending the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia “carried ten pounds or more of hashish.”

Golden Age of Medical Cannabis

In 1890, British physician J.R. Reynolds published his 30 years of experience with cannabis, recommending it for multiple conditions. For insomnia, he said, “I have found nothing comparable in utility to a moderate dose of Indian hemp [cannabis].”

Reynolds—like many contemporary doctors 125 years later—believed that cannabis was useful for treating migraine headaches, epilepsy, asthma, depression, and painful cramps. In his position as the court physician to Queen Victoria, he infamously prescribed a cannabis tea for her menstrual cramps.

In 1891, American doctor and author J.B. Mattison reported that cannabis prevented migraine attacks and blocked the pain of existing migraine headaches. Mattison’s results were later supported by Canadian physician William Osler (one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital), who wrote that marijuana was “probably the most satisfactory remedy” for migraines.

what-is-a-cannabis-tincture-6

One author labeled the 100 years between 1837 and 1937 as the Golden Age of Medical Cannabis. During that time, it was a common medical ingredient in a wide variety of commercially available pharmaceutical treatments. In fact, one museum has identified more than 600 medical products involving cannabis as a chief ingredient prior to its prohibition in 1937.

Cannabis use for medical purposes began to decline around 1890 for a few reasons.

  • First, cannabis potency was too unpredictable, likely due to the relatively poor plant genetics of the day.
  • Second, the introduction of the hypodermic syringe in the 1850s allowed a variety of drugs and opiates to be directly injected, delivering quick pain relief (cannabis, which is not water soluble, can’t be administered by injection).
  • Third, more profitable and predictable synthetic drugs, such as aspirin and barbiturates, became available.

Unfortunately, these drugs also carry the risk of death. More than a thousand people die each year in the United States alone from bleeding produced by aspirin. Cannabis, on the other hand, while being more difficult to administer in a standardized fashion due to varying potency, to this day has produced no documented deaths.

Today

In August 2013, the National Institutes of Health stated (on the National Cancer Institute website) that cannabinoids (the active chemicals found in marijuana) appear to have “significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, anti-tumor effects, and anti-cancer effects, including the treatment of breast and lung cancer.” Despite endorsements such as this, many in Congress and within the ranks of law enforcement continue to adamantly oppose research into the merits of cannabis as medicine.

Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use in some way (including four states and D.C. that have legalized recreational adult use). Outside the U.S., many countries allow medical pot at the federal level, including Canada, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Romania, Cambodia, and the Czech Republic. Even in North Korea, one of the most notorious and oppressive totalitarian regimes in the world, marijuana is legal.

Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has committed to legalizing recreational cannabis at the federal level in his country.  In Mexico, the Supreme Court has ruled that cannabis prohibition violates the rights of its citizens—although the President of Mexico doesn’t agree.

Increasingly, legalization of cannabis use for all purposes is sweeping the nation and the globe. The few examples of full legalization that exist, such as Uruguay, Denver, Seattle, Portland, and many parts of California, are proving to the world that legalization can be good for society, the economy, and even help maintain a crumbling infrastructure of schools and roads.


How does learning about the the medical potential of cannabis, while knowing the purposeful hurdles that have been put in place by governments and anti-progressives, feel?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I want to know. 


HBK11RenderGooey Rabinski is a technical writer and instructional designer who has contributed to magazines such as High Times, Cannabis CultureSKUNK, Heads, Weed World, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle, and is a contributing writer at Green Flower Media.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

The Culture High: Ignorance, Inc.

I recently watched a very interesting documentary on Netflix entitled The Culture High. While it seems to center on the issue of marijuana legalization, it isn’t your average documentary.

The film spends a significant percentage of its two interview-packed hours digging into the mechanism behind prohibition, including government lobbying, the pharmaceutical industry, and influence peddling.

This innovative documentary also carefully examines how the media deals with all of this, intelligently pointing out that big media is like big oil: In most respects, it’s just another corporation. As such, the media primarily serves its shareholders and stakeholders—not its consumers (its customers, after all, are advertisers).

watch-culture-high-documentary-o2-1024x576

If you decide to indulge in this innovative and thought-provoking documentary directed by Brett Harvey—which features exclusive interviews with everyone from Sir Richard Branson to rap artist Snoop Dogg to Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon—there’s one inevitable takeaway: We are a dualistic society with false perceptions. White hats versus black hats. The good guys versus the bad. Republicans against Democrats. Liberals pitted against conservatives. Sounds a tad overly simplistic, doesn’t it?

In fact, it’s so simplistic as to be false. Which means that many of your beliefs are based on bullshit or, more academically, false pretenses. Sorry. I wasn’t trying to pee in your Cheerios today. Just thought you might want a life filled with reality-based discontent instead of a fallacious satisfaction. If not, my bad.

Screw the Facts

The Culture High drives home the point that we live in a culture of misinformation, disinformation, and intimidation. And who loses in this scenario? Typically, the facts. This is epitomized by The Culture High‘s coverage of how Professor David Nutt, a psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist in the United Kingdom, was fired for being good at his job.

When acting as the government advisor for the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs, Nutt conducted a study that reported that the most harmful drug was alcohol and that cannabis was much less detrimental to individual health and society overall. “I thought I was being encouraged to tell the scientific truth. And then, suddenly, one afternoon, I got a phone call saying, effectively, you gotta resign.”

wiz-khalifa-in-the-culture-high.08.53 AM

Corporations and government often purposefully boil down issues to their base elements—typically losing accuracy, context, and intelligence—and then present an overly simplified version of issues to the media and, thus, the masses. I often tell my teenage children that there’s rarely any black or white, but a thousand shades of grey. Think about that.

It’s not two categories. Two categories is a myth, a childish encapsulation of a false reality. Instead, it’s a thousand nuanced layers. It’s complicated, whether we like it or not.

Those not willing to plug in their brains will never see reality. But our brains don’t like a thousand nuanced layers. Complexity hurts. It takes time. We must expend resources and brain energy to survey, analyze, and understand the complexity.

Maybe this is an approach we should all take. Regardless of how we do it or the amount of time it takes, we all need to get beyond the ignorant duality of a culture and a corporate media that attempts to limit our brains to being low-level storage devices, not processing chips.

We’re supposed to ferret away sound bites and headlines, reserving them for election day or our time at the supermarket or when surfing Amazon.com. But we’re not supposed to read between the lines. We’re not supposed to question authority, do our own research, or think for ourselves.

Do Yourself a Favor

Do yourself a favor. Watch The Culture High this weekend. In many respects, it has little to do with medical marijuana or the legalization of cannabis. At a higher level (sorry), it’s about unplugging from the mindless drone of corporate media and shallow politics. It’s about thinking for yourself.

WEB_culturehigh

I’m not going to tell you to support pot culture. I wrote Understand Medical Marijuana; of course I’m pro cannabis. But I will encourage you to think for yourself. Don’t mindlessly ingest content from The Huffington Post or Fox News or MSNBC or anywhere. Think. For. Yourself.

And if you’re not interested in thinking for yourself, it makes me wish I’d gone into marketing or politics and embraced the dark side. ‘Cause you’d be the first prey I’d target….

— Gooey Rabinski


All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2017 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.

Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer, photographer, and compliance documentation specialist for cannabis businesses who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, CannaBiz Journal, MERRY JANEEmerHBK11Renderald Magazine, Grow Magazine, Herb.coThe KindSkunk, Cannabis Culture, WhaxyHeads, Weed World, Green Flower MediaCannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.

He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.

His cannabis-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.