COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A high-profile proponent of marijuana legalization who was spurned as an applicant for a medical marijuana grower’s license announced plans on Monday for a 2018 Ohio ballot issue to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana.
The proposal from Green Light Acquisitions would make growing, processing, possessing, selling and using marijuana legal. The measure was announced by Jimmy Gould, CEO of CannAscend, whose grower’s proposal was rejected by the Ohio Department of Commerce last month.
Gould said the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol amendment will be on the ballot next fall. The amendment also would legalize the growing of hemp.
“We will put together the best amendment that we think will pass and does the most good for Ohioans,” Gould said.
Gould raised and spent millions of dollars as a backer of the unsuccessful 2015 effort to legalize marijuana in Ohio. In recent days he has criticized the Department of Commerce for hiring a consultant with a Pennsylvania drug conviction to help select Ohio’s medical marijuana growers.
Gould said Monday the selection system was flawed by incompetence and favoritism. He suggested problems with a second consultant involved in the medical marijuana program. He also alleged someone at the Department of Commerce was looking for a job with the applicants for growers’ licenses.
Commerce spokeswoman Kerry Francis denied those allegations Monday. She said consultants hired by the state to help score growers’ applications had limited influence on overall selections and were unaware of the identities of applicants they reviewed.
She said applicants denied grower’s licenses can appeal.
“We have confidence that we had a blind and impartial process,” Francis said.
Gould’s criticism — picked up by some lawmakers and several candidates running for governor — focuses on the 2005 guilty plea in Pennsylvania by consultant Trevor Bozeman at age 20 to charges of manufacturing, possessing and distributing drugs. A marijuana possession charge was dropped.
Bozeman was one of three consultants Ohio selected to help grade the grower applications. The consultants worked with state employees to select the growers. Bozeman has not returned phone and email messages.
Also Monday, the lawmaker who helped craft Ohio’s medical marijuana law expressed concerns about the application process.
State Rep. Kirk Schuring, a Canton Republican, said he’s concerned that nearly seven in 10 of all cultivator applications were ruled out of consideration.
Schuring said he wants to move quickly because the system must be up and running by September. He plans a Thursday meeting with Commerce Director Jacqueline Williams.
Last month, Ohio selected 12 large growers for a total of 24 licenses.
The state will use the consultants next to help score applicants for the medical marijuana processors.
Ohio’s medical marijuana law, passed last year, allows people with medical conditions such as cancer and epilepsy to buy and use marijuana if a doctor recommends it. It doesn’t allow smoking.