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.
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.
I’ve said a lot on these issues. Here are some snippets from my announcement speech. I support #IndustrialHemp and #Marijuana legalization. Check out our extensive platform @ https://t.co/duVmZCJfJL and my record in Congress on these issues. #PowerToWeThePeople #Kucinich4Ohio pic.twitter.com/jYHt79EPQ1
— Dennis Kucinich (@Dennis_Kucinich) February 20, 2018
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.
.@RichCordrayOH says he doesn't have anything to say about @BillForOhio calling on him to make legalization of marijuana part of his platform. O'Neill said he'd drop out if Cordray does.
— Ben Garbarek (@BenWSYX6) December 5, 2017
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.
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.
USDA Approves Hemp Plans For Texas, Nebraska And Delaware
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Monday that it has approved hemp regulatory plans for three more states and four additional Indian tribes.
This is the latest in a series of approvals that USDA has doled out since the crop and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. Texas, Nebraska and Delaware—in addition to the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Yurok Tribe—each had their regulatory plans cleared.
“USDA continues to receive and review hemp production plans from states and Indian tribes on an ongoing basis,” the department said in a notice. “Plans previously approved include those for the states of Louisiana, New Jersey, and Ohio, and the Flandreau Santee Sioux, Santa Rosa Cahuilla, and La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indian Tribes.”
While hemp is no longer a federally controlled substance, farmers interested in cultivating and selling the crop must live in a jurisdiction where USDA has approved a proposed regulatory scheme. The process was outlined in an interim final rule USDA published late last year. If a state or tribe does not have, or plan to propose, regulations for hemp, cultivators can apply for a USDA license instead.
“This is a victory for Texas farmers,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in a statement. “We are one step closer to giving our ag producers access to this exciting new crop opportunity.”
“We’ve got to get our rules approved and get our licensing program up and running, but the dominoes are dropping pretty quick,” he said. “We’re almost there.”
Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment that “Texas has the potential to be the largest supplier of hemp in the U.S., providing farmers with an unprecedented opportunity.”
“With approval from the USDA and the Texas Department of Agriculture already moving forward with establishing licensing standards, it’s refreshing to see our government paving the way for legal cannabis cultivation in Texas,” Fazio said.
While lawmakers and industry stakeholders have widely celebrated USDA’s commitment to implementing hemp legalization, it has also received a significant amount of pushback over proposed rules such as THC limits and laboratory testing requirements. A public comment period for the department’s interim rule ends on Wednesday.
USDA maintains a website that tracks the status of state and tribal hemp plans.
Monday’s announcement sends another signal to the hemp industry that the federal government is committed to supporting the market and ensuring that farmers have the resources they need to see their businesses thrive since the crop was legalized.
That said, one of the most lucrative market opportunities that hemp farmers are hoping to take advantage of is the widespread interest in hemp-derived CBD products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has jurisdiction over rules for marketing CBD, and the agency has made clear that the process may take several years without congressional action.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers set out to do just that, filing a bill that would require FDA to allow CBD products to be sold as dietary supplements.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.
Mexico’s President Says A New Marijuana Panel Will Make Legalization Recommendations
The president of Mexico said on Monday that a government panel is being formed in order to make recommendations for a legal marijuana system in the country.
While he didn’t offer many details about the commission, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said it will be focused on studying public health aspects of legalization.
“A group is going to be formed to decide what will happen about that with a public health approach. We are about to comply with the recommendation of the Supreme Court,” the president said during a press conference, according to a translation of his remarks, referencing a 2018 ruling that deemed the prohibition of cannabis for personal use unconstitutional.
Watch López Obrador’s marijuana comments, around 1:43:45 into the video below:
Asked to weigh in on the argument that regulating drugs like cannabis could combat cartels, the president said “we are analyzing this possibility” and went on to describe the state of play on legislation to legalize marijuana.
Since the court ruling, legislators have spent months discussing and drafting marijuana reform legislation to create a commercial cannabis market. Several Senate committees produced a comprehensive legalization bill last year, which advocates hoped would get a vote before the court’s October 2019 deadline to change the country’s marijuana policy, but that didn’t pan out.
The court granted lawmakers a deadline extension to end prohibition by April 30 of this year.
“We are about to fulfill this recommendation of the [Supreme Court] so that it becomes law,” he said. “We are going to process it, we are working on that—I think it will move forward. A group will be formed to decide what to do about this, basically.”
An amended reform bill, jointly submitted by the Justice and Health Committees, started circulating earlier this month. It would legalize possession of up to 28 grams, or 200 grams for those who obtain a certain license. Individuals would also be able to cultivate up to six plants.
“We have to review it well, of course, all with the public health approach, always with that approach, and taking into account the changes that are taking place,” the president said. “This is being analyzed.”
Sen. Ricardo Monreal Ávila of the ruling MORENA party stressed that the legislation isn’t final, but it’s a step in the right direction. He said he’ll be meeting with Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero and Julio Scherer, a legal advisor to the president, this week to discuss cannabis reform legislation.
Monreal, who included marijuana legalization in a list of legislative priorities this month, said he expects lawmakers to pass reform legislation ahead of the April deadline.
Advocates Push Back On Secretly Recorded Trump Claim That Marijuana Use Lowers IQ
Marijuana reform advocates are hitting back at President Trump’s suggestion that cannabis use makes people lose IQ points.
“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said of the first state to legalize cannabis for adult use. “It does cause an IQ problem.”
The comments were revealed over the weekend in a surreptitiously recorded video captured in April 2018 by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is involved in the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment.
But when it comes to cannabis’s impact on intelligence, Trump has it wrong, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which determined based on longitudinal twin studies that there is not “a causal relationship between marijuana use and IQ loss.”
In interviews with Marijuana Moment on Monday, legalization advocates expressed frustration that the president perpetuated the prohibitionist talking point.
“Trump’s remarks simply reveal that he is out of touch, given that the majority of Americans support marijuana legalization for both medical and adult use,” Sheila Vakharia of the Drug Policy Alliance said. “This type of rhetoric is fear-mongering and inflammatory.”
“The evidence is clear from the dozens of states that have legalized medical and adult use—the sky isn’t falling and the kids are alright,” she said.
Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, said that “what truly causes a decline in an individual’s intelligence is adhering to false Reefer Madness rhetoric that flies in the face of available science.”
“If President Trump truly believes that responsible marijuana use by adults leads to a loss of IQ points, we suggest he immediately consults his physician to see if he is suffering from this affliction or at the very least consults the wide body of available research that debunks this old talking point,” he told Marijuana Moment.
Listen to Trump talk about marijuana, about 45:30 into the video below:
But while the president’s IQ claim came as a disappointment, there were other aspects of the secretly recorded dinner conversation concerning that cannabis reform advocates see as positive.
For example, Trump seemed surprised to hear that state-legal marijuana businesses don’t have access to traditional financial services, which Parnas described as “the biggest problem” in the industry.
“Cannabis, look, you’re talking about marijuana, right? You can’t do banking there?” the president said, adding that the issue is “all working out. That whole thing is working out.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” he said.
Trump, who has previously voiced support for allowing states to set their own marijuana policies, also asked others at the dinner table whether they believe “the whole marijuana thing is a good thing” and whether the plant is “actually good for opioids.”
One person said cannabis is a “better alternative” to prescription opioids, and Donald Trump Jr. noted that “alcohol does much more damage” than marijuana and that “you don’t see people beating their wives on marijuana. It’s just different.”
Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Marijuana Moment that it’s “pretty frustrating that the president, like many others, has been misled by ‘Just Say No’ propaganda into believing the disproven idea that cannabis consumption decreases intelligence.”
“However, this clip suggests that he is in a fairly good position or at least heading towards one on the issue overall,” he said. “I think it is pretty clear that he understands that prohibition is a failure from an economic standpoint, that states should be free from federal interference, and that reform could help with the opioid epidemic.”
“His statements regarding access to banking suggest that he would be willing to sign cannabis banking reform legislation that crosses his desk. Generally, it is very heartening to see that the administration is having substantive conversations about it, and we welcome the opportunity to continue this discussion with the president to make sure he recognizes the urgency of reform and has the facts.”
Later in the recording, Parnas made the case that Trump should embrace marijuana reform ahead of the 2018 midterm elections to attract young voters and get “ahead of” the issue.
“It’s so far out you’re not going to stop it,” he said. “I think you need to be ahead of it.”
Parnas pitched the idea of establishing a “bipartisan committee” with “no politicians” to independently explore possible policy changes and make recommendations to the administration. The president didn’t directly reply.
While Trump didn’t take up the suggestion to take the lead on cannabis prior to the 2018 election in which Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said it’s not too late for him to act.
The president “has an opportunity to make the history books undoing a war he inherited, waged against Americans—African Americans in particular—literally for generations,” he said.
“Even his predecessor continued that same failed policy, throwing even more people in prison. Not only that, he has a chance to out flank every Democratic candidate in the field,” Murphy told Marijuana Moment, referring to the Obama administration’s rejection of petitions to reclassify cannabis under federal law. “He would be remembered as our greatest criminal justice reformer in history.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.