CINCINNATI — Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said marijuana legalization is inevitable, and could bring nearly 35,000 jobs to the state.
“Legalization is coming to Ohio. We need to accept the reality that this is going to happen,” Deters said following a meeting of the Marijuana Policies of Ohio Taskforce. The group, which Deters chairs, released a report on the economic, public safety and health repercussions of legalizing marijuana in Ohio.
The 188-page report was partially funded by ResponsibleOhio, which is pursuing a ballot initiative to legalize the crop. Deters works at the same Cincinnati law firm as Chris Stock, the principal author of the amendment to allow marijuana cultivation at 10 farms across the state.
Deters, a former state treasurer, said he wasn’t taking a position on ResponsibleOhio’s ballot initiative. However, the law-and-order Republican said his views on marijuana legalization have changed over time.
“Why in the world, knowing this is coming, would we let the bad guys make all the money?” Deters asked.
Taxing the nearly $7 billion industry could help fund local government, he added.
Republicans have denounced the ResponsibleOhio proposal. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine called legalization “a stupid idea.” On Thursday, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost rejected the new report’s credibility on Twitter.
“The Deters marijuana commission report today has all the credibility of a tobacco industry study on the safety of smoking,” Yost wrote.
But Deters said members of his party reject marijuana legalization because they have to run for election in a state that skews conservative.
“I’m well aware of the position of my friends on the statewide level who are all looking at potential primaries. As far as I know, I am not looking at a potential primary, so I don’t really care. I just want to make sure Ohioans have the information they need to make a choice.”
Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Smitherman, an independent and member of the task force, said he lost the 2005 election after opposing stricter marijuana laws. Between 2006 and 2010, anyone with even a small amount of marijuana in the city was charged with a misdemeanor. Only recently were 10,000 people with crimes on their record able to have them expunged.
“They have problems trying to engage society at any level because they show up on their record,” Smitherman said.
Half the task force members came from southwest Ohio. Others include William Breyer, a former Hamilton County assistant prosecutor; Tom Streicher, former Cincinnati chief of police; Scott Greenwood, a Cincinnati civil rights attorney; Howard Rahtz, a former Cincinnati police captain; and Ben Taylor-Fabe, a Cincinnati attorney.