CINCINNATI - If Cincinnati investor James Gould gets his way, Ohio voters will get another chance to consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Gould's group, Green Light Acquisitions, announced this week that it will pursue a constitutional amendment next year: the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Amendment.
The effort is vastly different, he said, from the failed 2015 pot push that would have legalized medical and recreational marijuana but limited cultivation in the state to just a handful of investors, including Gould. Dubbed Responsible Ohio, Gould's team of investors spent more then $20 million on those campaign efforts, he's said.
"We heard what voters said, which was they did not want self-selection," Gould told WCPO earlier this week.
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Gould's announcement comes at the end of a year packed with dozens of legal-marijuana firsts in Ohio. Regulators have written hundreds of new rules this year as Ohio works to roll out its medical marijuana program by September 2018. Just last month, the state named its first 24 licensed growers. Still to be decided: Who will land the right to process, test and dispense the state's legal medical pot.
In a maneuver separate from his amendment push, Gould has threatened legal action against the state for its handling of the cultivation licensing process. He's also CEO of CannAscend, a firm that was denied a growing license and alleges several missteps by the state in its scoring of applicants. His firm also uncovered that Ohio hired a convicted felon as one of its lead application reviewers.
For now, industry observers are watching Ohio closely.
"It's hard to predict how all this could play out," said Chris Walsh of Marijuana Business Daily, a Denver-based news and analytics firm.
So far, only a handful of states -- including Colorado, Nevada and California -- have made the transition from legal medical marijuana to recreational marijuana.
"The trend seems to be that the investors and businesses that already have a foothold in the medical market are the ones who are in the best position to take on recreational," Walsh said.
Gould's losing record at the ballot could also pose a problem for his latest push.
"The problem that they're going to face is that they're known as being the players behind the failed (Responsible Ohio) effort that was botched in many ways," Walsh said. "That means they better have learned a lot of lessons that they've applied to this if they hope to be successful."
For those scrambling to keep track -- here's a breakdown of what Gould's latest proposal and what's ahead.
A new plan for legal pot in Ohio
For now, Gould's group has offered an outline of what they hope to turn into an official constitutional amendment proposal come 2018. Under the outline, Ohioans 21 or older would be able to legally grow, possess, process, dispense and use the drug. Other measures include:
Commercial production and dispensing of marijuana will occur under a state-based system that licenses and regulates those businesses.
Home cultivation will be allowed for residents 21 and older, although the number of plants that could be grown at home isn't listed in the plan so far. Landlords and property managers can forbid renters from home cultivation.
Cities, villages and townships will be allowed to decide how many commercial marijuana businesses can operate in their boundaries, and local voters will be able to prohibit dispensaries from opening in in their community if they choose.
No smoking in public: The proposal would prohibit smoking marijuana or pot-related products in public spaces or any place where smoking is prohibited.
Hemp cultivation would be legalized under the proposal, putting laws on Ohio's books that are similar to those in neighboring states including Kentucky.
Businesses would preserve the right to maintain a drug free work place, and terminate employees who screen positive for marijuana.
Lab testing of commercially produced marijuana and marijuana-related products will be required.
Seed-to-sale tracking of all all commercially produced and dispensed marijuana will be required.
By January, Green Light says it will finalize the language for the petition that will be used to collect the more than 305,000 signatures needed to place the amendment on the November 2018 ballot. Those signatures are due to the state by early July.
Have questions or want to weigh in on the amendment?
Green Light has created an email account -- Ballot@GLA.Holdings -- where it says its taking questions and feedback on the ballot issue.