Young white woman smiling and Cheech and Chong

It would be the ultimate stoner irony and hypocrisy. But according to one police brutality activist, fully legal recreational marijuana could someday pay for Ohio’s “Cop City,” which may be built somewhere in Central Ohio.

“It’s very likely the AG [Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost] and Republicans will want to divert those funds for training. Representative Cindy Abrams, former law enforcement, introduced a bill to mandate funds be spent towards law enforcement officer training and equipment,” said Emily Cole, Executive Director of Ohio Families Unite for Political Action and Change (OFUPAC). This is the lobbyist arm of Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality, which was founded by Sabrina Jordan of Dayton who lost her son to police brutality in 2017. Jordan’s nonprofit represents 700 Ohio families who have also lost a loved one since the turn of the century to police violence.

“Ohio lawmakers seem very comfortable flouting the will of voters so it wouldn’t surprise me to see them divert those revenues away from the spending outlined in the amendment,” added Cole.

Issue 2 passed overwhelmingly in November with 57 percent voter approval. And while recreational dispensaries won’t start opening until June, adults over 21 are allowed 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower and 12 plants per household.  

Many marijuana loving adults in Ohio were left in awe at the support Issue 2 received. This after many of these same people had faced a lifetime of scorn and ridicule for being a so-called “stoner” or “hippie.” Smoking in secret after making illegal purchases of a dried plant. This may seem like First World problems, but consider how marijuana using African Americans were treated. They were overly targeted by police (i.e., profiled) and faced serious legal consequences if caught.

Kind of a surprise was Issue 2’s fallout amongst conservatives. But no one should ever be surprised by how bitter, over serious, and cold the Ohio GOP can be. The Ohio GOP teetotalers couldn’t believe that a plant, given to us by their God (as some like to believe and argue), could be so widely embraced by so many Ohioans.

Now that Issue 2 is law, the legislature has the power to amend parts of the law, and the Ohio GOP didn’t hesitate as two bills were introduced within several days of it passing. One of the bills, HB 326, is proposing marijuana tax revenues pay for “peace officer training”. Introduced, as mentioned by Cole, by State Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) who is a former Cincinnati police officer and received the Legislator of the Year award from the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police in 2022.

Rep. Abrams (pictured above) should be commended for her service. More women are joining the ranks of law enforcement, and this also should be recognized. And in regard to Ohio’s “Cop City,” there is a question of whether law enforcement does indeed need more training to deal with future active shooters.

Rep. Abrams wants to make an $80 million investment over the next two years in what she is calling the Law Enforcement Assistance Fund, paid for by the anticipated tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales.

“Training saves lives,” said Abrams. “Every one of our law enforcement officers should have access to quality training, and this bill will ensure this is Ohio’s reality with sustainable funding. Training sets law enforcement up for success, increases public safety, and strengthens community relations.”

The good news for marijuana users who would never want any of their own hard-earned money to be used to pay for Cop City, is that Abram’s bill was referred to committee in November after the vote and hasn’t had any movement since then.

But even if Abram’s bill never gets any traction, the signs have been flashing like a police cruiser’s lights: The Ohio GOP is determined to make Cop City a reality.

This past summer, after semi-truck driver Jadarrius Rose was ordered by Ohio state troopers to pull over for missing a mud flap on a perfectly sunny day, a police dog was sicced on him.

“Governor DeWine after [the Circleville incident] kind of renewed the ‘I think we need a training center’ idea,” said Cole. “DeWine actually said in an interview that ‘We should have a joint training center. Maybe we’ll commission a study for this great tactical training center because clearly, we need more training.’”

Attorney General David Yost (a Republican) not long after convened a “blue ribbon task force” to study officer training and envision “cop 2030,” said Cole.

“But they did not provide any final task force assignments, no public meeting dates. The task force recommendations are due mid-January,” she said. “I would expect to see something about the need for a ‘facility’ after that returns.”