Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill recently made news when he called for the legalization and taxation of cannabis in a speech he made in front of the Wayne County, OH Democratic Party. As the lone Democrat holding statewide office in Ohio, and as someone who is considering a run for Governor next year, O’Neill is an important player within the party.
Pointing out the success of legalization in states like Colorado, O’Neill said that doing the same in Ohio could generate hundreds of millions of dollars to combat drug abuse and restore mental health services.
“The time has come for new thinking,” he said. “We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass.”
As many will remember, voters in Ohio had a chance to legalize marijuana possession, sales and home growing for adult use in 2015 – a chance they soundly rejected by almost 30 percentage points. After the defeat of Issue 3 and the disappearance of groups that claimed they were going to get legalization on the ballot in 2016, the Ohio legislature passed a limited medical marijuana law that officials in the state continue to struggle to implement.
In his speech touting the advantages of legalizing cannabis – among other things – O’Neill also called for the release of all non-violent marijuana offenders from jail as part of a legalization plan.
The current Ohio Governor, Republican John Kasich, is no fan of cannabis. He told Stephen Colbert in 2015, “The problem with marijuana is this: We don’t want to tell our kids, ‘Don’t do drugs, but by the way, this drug’s OK.'” Specious reasoning to be sure; after all, does anyone really think that the legality of tobacco and alcohol is sending the message to kids that these things are ok for them to try? There are many things that adults do that kids are not allowed to do, including driving, voting and dying in a war. Children are familiar with the concept that adults do some things that they can’t or shouldn’t.
The time has come for “new thinking” and to see someone like a sitting state Supreme Court justice talking about this issue openly is a huge step. If he does run for Governor next year you can be sure that legalization will be a part of the discussion, at least on the Democrat side. Maybe voters in Ohio will soon get another chance at adult use legalization or, a less likely scenario, the Ohio legislature will pass a bill to send to the state’s new Governor, William O’Neill.
Only time will tell, but the notion is on the table – which is the first step to getting it codified into law.