Editor’s note: Ohioans in November will vote on whether to make marijuana legal for medical and recreational use. ResponsibleOhio has proposed what’s become a controversial ballot measure; it’s been reported that the group of investors in marijuana cultivation and sales will spend up to $20 million to campaign for its passage. Already, 23 states have legalized the sale of marijuana for medical use and four states allow pot for recreational use. After this year’s Ohio’s vote, the country could see an even greater movement to end the prohibition on marijuana through state, rather than federal, legislation. “I actually consider 2016 to be what I call the game-over year because there’s a good chance that a bunch of states will legalize marijuana,” said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs.
By now, many Ohioans are familiar with Responsible Ohio, the group behind a ballot measure to allow the growing and selling of medical and recreational marijuana – but would limit the ownership of pot farms to only 10 growers in the state. Few, however, know who’s behind Responsible Ohio and how the campaign is being financed or the investors who will benefit if the measure passes in November. Professional operatives are an essential part of the so-called “grass roots” initiatives to pass ballot measures not just in Ohio but throughout the country. Ian James, the Columbus-based consultant behind Responsible Ohio, came up with idea for the ballot measure, pulled together investors who will reap millions from pot farms and have bankrolled a $20 million campaign to get voters to approve their idea. James also will have a major stake in the marijuana business should it come to pass.
Ohio last year approved a bill allowing high school students to receive up to two units of academic credit for instruction outside the public school classroom. Students can get credit for religious instruction as long as no public funds or publicly paid personnel are involved and they're not taught in public school buildings. The Center for Investigative Reporting, now found at the website revealnews.org has an update of what's going on around the country when it comes to "religious release" programs.
Since 2003, more than 30 states - including Ohio - either have cut workers' compensation benefits or made it harder for injured workers to qualify for benefits. That's according to a just-released series of stories by ProPublica non-profit investigative news organization and National Public Radio. The story was published just as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a report saying that, on average, workers comp pays only 20% of the cost of workers' injuries and illnesses in the United States. Workers pay half the cost out -of-pocket and the rest is paid by private insurance and other government funding sources. In Ohio, workers' comp benefit cuts came in the mid-2000s, when laws were passed raising the burden of proof for employees when an injury aggravated an existing condition, and lowering the "life" of claims to automatically close cases five years after the last medical treatment, making it difficult to receive payment if an injury recurs.
The biggest donor to state elections in November was the Republic Governors Association, which spent $68.6 million, according to a data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity. The Ohio Republican Party got $9 million of that pot, with $3 million directed to Gov. Kasich’s re-election campaign. Mike DeWine, who won re-election as Ohio’s Attorney General, received $1.3 million from the RGA. In contrast the Democratic Governors’ Association spent $32 million on state races in November. Kasich’s opponent, former Cuyahoga County executive, did not receive donations from the Democratic association.