The Honorable Representatives of the State of Ohio
Ohio Statehouse
78 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215


Ohio is poised to join the ranks of states legalizing marijuana use in some fashion. This is the first bill of its kind in Ohio.  It is a substantial step for our state and deserves our attention.  The bill is moving quickly and appears ready to pass on its first go.


But, what does the Republican Liberty Caucus of Ohio (RLCOH) think of the bill? Should it be important to us? Our groundbreaking Ohio Liberty Index finds us scoring all kinds of legislation in order to rank sitting legislators on their liberty votes. Truth is, every piece of legislation is important to us, even the ones we don’t rate.  It’s rare that we don’t rate legislation because we can’t reach a “yay” or “nay” consensus.  Rather, there’s only so much time our all-volunteer organization has, so we only pick the most substantial legislation to rate.


Ultimately, we believe in eliminating government involvement in the peaceful private affairs of individuals. Thus, full repeal of any marijuana criminalization is the desired outcome. We could very well hold out for that. But, what does that do to the thousands of Ohioans who could experience relief from severe pain by using cannabis now? Are they to suffer until we get it right? Would you want your aging mother to live in pain until we were able to live free? What does that do to the thousands of people who choose to break the law for that relief? Are we to make criminals out of them? Hasn’t the war on drugs cost us enough already?


We have lots of work to do to achieve the government’s proper role in marijuana use, but this bill can be a step in the right direction. The best football teams move the ball downfield on every play. Not every single play can be a touchdown. This bill presented quite a challenge for us. On the one hand, we see it as a much necessary step in the right direction. On the other, we have some significant objections to the bill. We’re conflicted to say the least.


First, it grows the government and delegates the authority to make law to an appointed controlling board. This unelected board can decide who is fined and goes to jail.  We believe legislator and not appointed bureaucrats should have this authority. We are asked to rely on appointees with varied levels of immunity to carry out our will.


Secondly, it leaves out a large number of patients who can’t afford to purchase much needed medication. Only licensed dispensaries would be legalized and home grow is forbidden. There is a potential open door for veterans and the indigent to seek relief, but at what cost? Are the taxpayers to foot this bill? In the case of veterans, it is the responsibility to Ohio to take care of its own until the federal government does so, but what about others?  We believe we should forego a new welfare program by allowing people to cultivate marijuana for themselves or for a sick family member.


Bottom line?          


We could rate this bill a “nay.” But, we’d be punishing legislators for advancing a bill that is moving the ball downfield. We don’t want to do that.


We could rate this bill a “yay.” But, we’d be promoting a bill that is contrary to our core values. That is also something we also don’t want do.


Ultimately, our conflict led us to abstain from rating House Bill 523. We’d like for legislators to get it right. We fear, however, that their desire to get out in front of a citizen-led ballot initiative will prevent that. After decades of inaction, it’s taken the threat of a grassroots effort to force a shoddy bill onto the floor.


As much as we would like our legislators to do the right thing, we find ourselves in favor of a ballot initiative to overcome the shortcomings of our elected officials. Where legislators get it wrong, we can get it right as a collective body of voters. While we find admitting that fact displeasing, we’re confident that Ohioans can do the job legislators won’t.



                                                                                            Michael Newbern
                                                                                            Chairman, Legislative Committee
                                                                                            Republican Liberty Caucus of Ohio




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