Doctor Acton

The Free Press has been calling for the full legalization of marijuana for half a century – this year marks the paper’s 50th anniversary, by the way, and we will continue to publish. But in no other time does the Free Press believe Ohio needs to end prohibition against recreational as fast as possible.

If it were to eventually happen post pandemic – and that’s a big if – it would be ironic and just.

This plant birthed by nature, yet perplexingly demonized by our government and police (especially in puritan-like Ohio), could generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue to help the state deal with a predicted economic collapse where tens of thousands are out of work and staring homelessness in the face.

Colorado and California have each reaped hundreds of millions in tax revenue per year from recreational, which is now legal in 11 states. This includes our neighbor to the north, which has estimated annual recreational sales will approach a billion, adding $100 million from excise tax and $60 million in sales tax.

It’s not just tax revenue: recreational will create thousands of jobs, reduce stress on law enforcement and courts, generate rent for abandoned buildings turned into massive grow rooms, and last but not least, give peace of mind to users, nearly all being upstanding citizens and taxpayers.

The problem is, for Ohio a quick transition to recreational is mostly fantasy. Gov. Mike DeWine can make an emergency ruling to shut down restaurants but not legalize recreational. The law would have to be introduced, then hearings, and then debated and voted on by the General Assembly.

“Even in the best of times it would take several months,” says Rob Ryan, executive director for the medical marijuana advocacy group Ohio Patients Network based in Cincinnati. “But absolutely we could boost the tax revenue. I have estimated the consumption of cannabis products by medical consumers probably amounts to less than 10 percent of the total consumption in Ohio. We are talking about 90 percent in taxable sales, a very big boost to the state’s revenue.”

While the state cannot immediately legalize recreational, the White House could do so via an executive order, says Ryan. Speaking of which, a promise made by Senator Bernie Sanders.

With the White House in mind, could the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries handle a sudden crush of customers?

Ryan says he cannot speak for all state medical dispensaries, but he says a large number could be ready. According to, 48 are now open for business.

“I know that a number of them, and I cannot speak for all the dispensaries, have that (recreational sales) in their business plan,” he says. “There’s probably no shortage of marijuana in the state of Ohio for those who want it, and there probably never has been. But it’s really a matter of going through a legal market rather than an underground market. Because to run a documented, regulated, taxed and tested market, it would take some time for the volume to increase to a significant amount.”

Ryan adds, “You can’t have unofficial growers right now open their doors to sales. That’s not going to work.”

Dr. Jonathan Cachat, a medical marijuana expert who moved from California back to his home state of Ohio to assist in getting the medical law up and running, agrees the current roadblocks to fast-tracking recreational in Ohio are mind-boggling and bewildering.

“I think the DeWine administration, from all of my interactions with them, their priorities seem to be to not expand cannabis use at all,” says Dr. Cachat, president of Conscious Cannabis Ventures Research. “I also know that from the West Coast people don’t want to pay more money for the same weed, so the black market still wins.”

Dr. Cachat believes the typical Ohio cannabis user only wants homegrown and the state probably won’t allow that, as is the case with the medical law.

“If the goal was to get it up and running to increase tax revenue then the shortest path would be to allow any medical shop to switch over and sell to anyone over 21,” he says. “But it’s cheaper in the black market and there’s no real consistent quality distinction.”

It should be noted a grassroots effort to get a recreational amendment on the ballot is ongoing. The organizers of Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Amendment submitted an initial 1,000 signatures to Ohio Attorney General David Yost earlier in March but Yost returned the amendment saying it needed to be re-worded.

Organizers, many fed up with the state’s much maligned medical law, have a July deadline to correct the language and submit over 400,000 valid signatures.

The Free Press reached out to several Ohio Senators and House members who sponsored either the medical or cannabis legalization bills but did not hear back before posting this article.

The drive and dream for “legalization” has been echoing for decades. Ohio’s conservative narrow-mindedness has played a major role in marijuana being demonized far worse than alcohol.

If the dream were to finally be realized later this year, it would be unfortunate yet ironic it took a pandemic to realize the foolishness of prohibition.

But if you believe in miracles, if and when that day comes, drop your dealer and buy Ohio-sold recreational to help Ohio.