COLUMBUS — A key backer of recreational marijuana legalization in Ohio said Tuesday that he and his business partners are pursuing commercial, legislative and ballot strategies to continue expanding access to safe cannabis and related products.
Ian James, founder and president of Green Light Acquisitions LLC, ran the unsuccessful ballot campaign to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana in 2015. Ohio has since legalized medical marijuana.
He outlined for reporters Tuesday a well-funded, multi-pronged approach for how his various business and political interests are pushing forward on $250 million of related projects.
"For us to think that by keeping it illegal we're going to stop people is just simply fantasy," James said, noting that polls show 14 percent of Ohioans use marijuana regularly and another 14 percent would if it were legalized. "You can't smother a black market by just saying 'Say No To Drugs.'"
James said his business has developed a line of therapeutic lotions, soaps and sprays using cannabidiol that he's marketing to large national retailers, including Urban Outfitters and Sephora. The firm also is moving into insurance, pet products and beverages, he said.
James said his plans to pursue another constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for personal use, which would likely appear on the 2020 ballot, haven't been dampened by a competing proposal moving forward now. He said that ballot issue has a "fatal flaw" that his lawyers believe would open the resulting marijuana market up to widespread abuse.
James also wants to see state lawmakers act. He said he's again pushing a so-called "Fresh Start Act," which calls for purging non-violent marijuana crimes that are now legal from offenders' records. If lawmakers don't act, he said his campaign organization would push it to the ballot as an initiated statute.
Another bill he's advocating would open Ohio to hemp cultivation that's now legal in many surrounding states, a proposal James said is backed by the American Farm Bureau.
Green Light attorney Ted Bibart said creating good cannabis policy is key to advocates' ultimate goal.
"The goal is to continue to constantly educate," he said, "but also to develop these industries in such a way that it will be mainstreamed, that they're done safely, that they're done appropriately, and that they're done within the law so that they encourage regulatory frameworks that will be the undergirding of a fall of prohibition the same way we saw with alcohol — but far more responsibly done and with a focus on health and healing and wellness."