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Where Ohio Gubernatorial Candidates Stand On Marijuana

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On Tuesday, Ohio voters will cast ballots in primary elections to select each party’s nominee for governor.

The candidates have been talking about marijuana reform on the campaign trail, and we’ve compiled a list detailing each major contender’s stance on the issue.

Democrats

Richard Cordray, former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Seen by some political observers as the favorite to win the Democratic primary nomination, Cordray has been evasive about his stance on marijuana reform since announcing his candidacy in December 2017. The establishment Democrat, endorsed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), has only gone so far as to say that he would respect Ohio voters’ decision if they opted to legalize marijuana and vowed to improve Ohio’s existing medical marijuana program—but he’s declined to clarify his personal views on reform.

“As Governor, Rich Cordray will fix the botched implementation of Ohio’s medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have access to the medicine they need in a safe and affordable manner,” spokesperson Mike Gwin told Marijuana Moment. “He also thinks that the last marijuana ballot referendum failed partly because it was a flawed proposal. He supports voters’ right to propose a new referendum and will follow the will of the voters if it comes to a vote.”

Former Ohio Supreme Court justice Bill O’Neill, one of Cordray’s challengers, offered to drop out of the race if the candidate adopted his pro-legalization stance. But asked to comment on the challenger’s proposal in December, Cordray said simply, “I don’t have anything much to say about that today,” The Statehouse News Bureau reported.

Dennis Kucinich, former U.S. House representative

Though Cordray is considered the “conventional” favorite to win the Democratic primary nomination, Kucinich is his closest competition and still stands a “good chance” of winning, Cleveland.com reported. And when it comes to the issue of marijuana legalization, the former U.S. representative stands in stark contrast to his opponent. Kucinich has campaigned on a consistently pro-legalization agenda—and co-sponsored several bills during his tenure in Congress, ranging from the legalization of agricultural hemp to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana.

In March, Kucinich announced that part of his agenda if elected governor would involve working to legalize recreational marijuana and hemp in the state, and allowing medical marijuana patients to grow cannabis for personal use. He’s also argued that expanding access to cannabis would provide pain patients with an alternative to addictive and dangerous painkillers in a state that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

Bill O’Neill, former Ohio Supreme Court justice

Political analysts don’t consider O’Neill a particularly strong contender in the Democratic gubernatorial primary—due in no small part to his brazen social media posts about his past sexual escapades in the wake of misconduct allegations against former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D). His viability as a candidate has also been questioned given his lack of name recognition and campaign funding. That said, O’Neill has unequivocally championed marijuana reform throughout his candidacy.

His campaign website reads clearly: “Marijuana should be legal in Ohio. It has many non-addictive medicinal qualities; reduces the dependence on opioids and alcohol; and is a proven job, tax and income producer.”

Early into his run for governor, O’Neill said that he would bow out of the race if Cordray threw his hat into the ring, but he’s since said that he “wants Cordray to agree with him on marijuana legalization and reopening shuttered state mental hospitals to treat opioid addicts,” before he’s willing to exit the race. Cordray declined to comment on O’Neill’s proposal.

Joseph Schiavoni, Ohio senator

The former boxer and current state senator’s candidacy has been met with skepticism— but on at least one issue, he stands out in his adamant support for medical and recreational marijuana legalization in Ohio. He’s co-sponsored legislation in the state to provide access to cannabis for medical marijuana patients and, according to his campaign site, feels that recreational legalization “would provide needed funding to our state and allow police to focus resources on more pressing matters,” adding that any such laws would have to be passed “properly.”

“For example, we need to make sure the money this new industry generates is directed at something specific, such as Ohio’s education system. It should not just go to the state and disappear,” a statement on his campaign site reads.

Two other Democratic candidates, Paul Ray and Larry Ealy, qualified for the November ballot, but their stances on marijuana reform—among many other issues—are unknown. Ray, a candidate who is seemingly without a digital footprint and Ealy, a former exotic dancer who ran for Ohio governor in 2014, are not considered strong candidates by most conventional measures.

Republicans

Mike DeWine, Ohio attorney general

DeWine is the favorite to win Ohio’s Republican gubernatorial nomination—and he’s resistant to marijuana reform, to say the least. Just days ago, on April 20, the state’s attorney general rejected a petition that sought to fully legalize marijuana in Ohio, Cincinnati.com reported, though he explained that the move had to do with the measure’s language, not its subject matter. The attorney general also visited Colorado in October 2015 to assess how the state’s recreational marijuana system was playing out, but after witnessing the popularity of edibles in the state, he said he was “alarmed.”

Mary Taylor, Ohio lieutenant governor 

Though there are few public details about Taylor’s personal stance on medical marijuana legalization, we know at least two things: 1) she’s on the record opposing recreational legalization, and 2) she was vocal in a push to freeze approvals on marijuana grower applications in the state in December 2017 after it was discovered that a convicted drug dealer had been hired as a consultant to grade applicants.

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Andrew Yang Contrasts Rampant Opioid Prescribing With Marijuana Criminalization

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Andrew Yang contrasted the widespread prescribing of opioids with the ongoing criminalization of marijuana on Wednesday.

In a tweet, the entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said there were “more opiate prescriptions in the state of Ohio than people in Ohio,” yet “marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug” under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

He’s brought that point up before, at a presidential debate in October. Asked about his proposed to decriminalize possession of opioids to combat the drug overdose crisis, Yang brought up the statistic and criticized the government for failing to take action against pharmaceutic companies that aggressively marketed addictive painkillers.

“If the government turned a blind eye to this company, spreading a plague among its people, then the least we can do is put a resource into work in our communities so that people have a fighting chance to get well, even though this is not a money problem,” he said at the time.

NBC News confirmed that, in 2010, federal data shows there were 102.4 opioid prescriptions in Ohio for every 100 persons. That’s decreased since then, with 2017 data showing 63.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons in the state.

Yang, who supports comprehensive marijuana legalization, has also embraced other harm reduction policies. Beyond decriminalizing opioids, he said in an interview published last week that he’s in favor of providing federal funding for the establishment of safe injection facilities, where individuals can use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive assistance getting into treatment.

Yang has not yet called for decriminalization of substances beyond opioids and cannabis, however. That policy is backed by rival contenders South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, also presidential candidates, have called for the establishment of safe injection sites.

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Photo courtesy of ABC News.

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Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed In Virginia Ahead Of Attorney General’s Cannabis Summit

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The attorney general of Virginia held a cannabis summit on Wednesday, with representatives of states that have legalized marijuana sharing their insights as lawmakers in the Commonwealth prepare to push reform legislation in the coming session.

This event came one day after a lawmaker prefiled a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use and expand the state’s existing limited medical cannabis program.

The event featured panels on marijuana decriminalization, social equity, public health, hemp, CBD and creating a pathway for eventual legalization. The goal was to answer policy questions and inform legislation, which Attorney General Mark Herring (D) hopes will start with decriminalization and expungements and later adult-use legalization.

“I don’t believe that Virginia’s current approach of criminalizing cannabis is working,” Herring said in his opening remarks. “It is needlessly creating criminals and burdening Virginians with convictions.”

“The human and social costs are enormous, in addition to the millions of dollars it costs Virginia taxpayers. And the negative consequences of the current approach fall disproportionately on African Americans and people of color,” he said. “It’s clear to me that the time for cannabis reform has come. Justice demands it. Virginians are demanding it. And I’m going to help make sure we get this right.”

Watch video of the Virginia Cannabis Summit  below: 

Representatives from Colorado and Illinois discussed law enforcement and equity in regulated marijuana markets.

The prospects of passing reform measures greatly increased in Virginia after November’s election, which saw Democrats reclaim control of both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in decades. Herring said the timing is right to “plot a course for a smarter, fairer, more just cannabis policy” in the state.

Sen. Dave Marsden (D), co-founder of the legislature’s recently established Cannabis Caucus, said at the summit that ensuring that the legal market is equitable is paramount.

“We can’t substitute a civil process for a criminal one and not expect it to lead to disparities,” he said.

“Following several years of forming consensus around medical cannabis products, we have to be ready to take action in the upcoming legislative session to further reform our laws in this arena,” he said in a press release. “This effort will include a more robust medical cannabis program and Attorney General Herring’s summit is a big step in ensuring we are knowledgeable on the issue and prepared to do this right.”

“Virginia is ready for evidence-based reform and that is what we will provide.”

Del. Stephen Heretick (D) said the summit “is a great opportunity for me and my fellow legislators to learn from the experiences of other states as we consider how to create more fair, just, equitable, and effective cannabis laws here in Virginia.”

Decriminalization is the first proposal on the agenda when the next session starts, the attorney general said. That would fulfill a campaign promise of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who ran on the issue in 2017 and talked about in his State of the Commonwealth address this year.

“It’s time for public policy to catch up with public opinion, and NORML applauds Attorney General Herring for his efforts to foster and advance evidence-based cannabis laws,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML said. “We look forward to supporting the attorney general and the Virginia Cannabis Caucus in their work reforming marijuana laws for a safer Commonwealth.”

While Northam hasn’t voiced support for recreational legalization, Herring said last week that Wednesday’s summit is one resource that will help the state move toward comprehensive reform.

“Based on my conversations, he supports decriminalization,” Herring, who is also running for governor in 2021, said. “Like a lot of people, I think they’d like to get more information about what legalization and what regulated, adult-use would look like.”

A bill to decriminalize marijuana and make possession of up to one ounce punishable by a maximum $50 civil penalty was prefiled in the legislature last month.

This latest legalization bill, introduced by Del. Lee Carter (D), will likely be a heavier lift. It would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers, and it would impose a 10 percent tax, revenue from which would go toward a veterans fund, transportation and local municipalities that allow marijuana businesses to operate.

“While a majority of Virginians agree with Attorney General Herring that marijuana should be legal for responsible use by adults, it may take a bit more work to convince the Virginia General Assembly to send such a bill to the governor’s desk,” Michelle Pedini told Marijuana Moment. “Todays summit is an important, and historic, step toward that goal, and NORML is proud to be a part of it.”

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Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

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Thailand Prime Minister Uses Medical Marijuana At Event With Ganja Mascot

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Top officials in Thailand are getting the word out about medical marijuana—in part by distributing cartoon cannabis dolls and publicly using marijuana oils.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced the launch of the government’s medical cannabis education site on Wednesday and appeared at an event alongside a person wearing a spectacled marijuana leaf costume called Dr. Ganja. Children were also present, carrying their own Dr. Ganja dolls.

Prayut argued in favor of the therapeutic use of cannabis, stating that it represents a potential treatment option for low-income people in particular. According to The Nation Thailand, he also demonstrated marijuana products, inhaling an oil and applying some to the back of his ears. The prime minister also said he plans to purchase some oils himself.

The government’s education site features information about where to find cannabis clinics, what kinds of products are available and infographics laying out basic research into marijuana.

Via MedCannabis.

Thai lawmakers have made clear their excitement about medical cannabis, with several filmed participating in a ritual dance in August to celebrate the first batch of marijuana oil.

Months after Thailand opted to legalize medical marijuana, the ruling party unveiled draft legislation in September that allows individuals to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use.

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