A campaign to get marijuana legalization on the ballot in Ohio ran into a hornet's nest of opposition on Thursday, when top officials slammed the idea at a public forum.
David Yost, the state auditor and a Republican, said it was "outrageous" that the state would create business monopolies via ballot issue.
"What’s next?" he asked. "Twelve monopolies for whorehouses in the 12 largest counties?”
The response from Yost shouldn't be too surprising — he's a former county prosecutor who brags in his bio about busting the county's largest drug ring.
But leading Ohio Republicans stand unified against the drug reform effort. Four of the state's top five elected officials spoke out against the measure on Thursday, although Gov. John Kasich did not attend the event.
The worries about a business monopoly aren't unfounded. The group running the campaign, ResponsibleOhio, wants to grant investors who fund the campaign one of 10 licenses to grow cannabis in the state, a big incentive to cut a check for legalization.
The concept has won over some backers with financial clout. On Friday, ResponsibleOhio released the names of top investors so far, with NFL defensive end Frostee Rucker and former NBA great Oscar Robertson among the names on the list.
Ohio wasn't the only state with marijuana buzz yesterday. Lawmakers in Delaware introduced a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. A spokesperson for Gov. Jack Markell said he is "open to continuing conversations" about removing criminal penalties for small amounts of cannabis.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.