A “new” group and concept for marijuana legalization has crept into Ohio and onto the national stage. Activism, advocacy, lobbying and ballot initiatives once comprised the social change formulae that challenged government suppression of this beneficial plant, which has historically been off limits to almost all use. But the success of legalization in Colorado has spawned a whole new brand of opposition. Internal, not external. Wealthy, not impoverished. Influential, not marginal. Seemingly pro, but very con.
A new group calling themselves “Responsible Ohio” (RO) has emerged on the marijuana ballot scene, driven not by grassroots activism, but instead by a consortium of investors, LLCs and holding companies who seek to enforce market exclusivity by writing themselves into the Ohio Constitution. Yet, despite a Goliath-size budget and a board of the rich and famous, they have made a number of critical errors, causing most of Ohio’s major newspapers to editorialize a preemptive “vote no!” to their scheme, belying all of the muscle that RO’s six figure ad agencies can buy. Some of the more damning aspects of RO include:

  1. Responsible Who? Back in the day, use of a name in trade counted for something, often times conferred a “right” to it. Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis has been fielding marijuana ballot initiatives since 2011, although so far unsuccessfully. Still, every single blue blooded Ohio activist knows about them. So it’s astounding that “Responsible Ohio” has essentially stolen “Responsible Ohioan’s” trade name, not to mention their public domain logo. Granted, they failed to register with the Ohio Secretary of State. So? What’s the right thing to do, RO? Surely, you knew about the “Ohioans” in advance. Strike one.

  2. The RO “Board,” oops “Key Investors.” Take a peek at Responsible Ohio’s board of directors (no doubt their list of “Key Investors” is just that). For example, Chancy Pruett and John Humphrey hail from DMP Investments. Who is DMP, you ask? It is a “Payday Lending Company,” and they are its executives. Remember, these abusive payday loans can carry interest rates of 800 percent or more annually. And how about Bobby George of the Corporate Management Group, Ltd, LLC? Between Ohio, Florida and Nevada, he plays a “key role” in as many as ten different LLCs (Limited Liability Corporations) with names that provide few clues as to what they do. Where on the list of “Key Investors” are experts in the cannabis industry, or those who even know the difference between marijuana and cannabis? Hint: none. Noting that “cannabis” is completely missing from the RO website. Strike two.

  3. An alphabet soup of LLCs. Speaking of nondescript LLCs, check out RO’s campaign finance report for 2014. Yikes! This filing on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website contains entries for 19 “contributions,” ranging from $3,200 to $250,000. Twelve of the filings are for numbered LLCs such as “76826776 LLC” that simultaneously displays “(OHIOVEN LLC)” next to it. This number corresponds to entries in “Edgar” on the website of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The site’s “Form D,” “Notice of Exempt Offering of Securities,” shows that 76826776 LLC’s “date of first sale” for its “Equity Offering” was 10/24/14, with a minimum $4,000,000 investment, all of which appears to have all been sold. The entry lists Christopher Stock, Ian James and James Gould as the “Related Persons.” It’s little wonder that four members of Ohio’s Executive Branch panned RO as “stupid” and “offensive.” Follow the money? Hardly, in this auditor’s shell game nightmare. Strike three.

 It would be nice if three strikes meant “out,” but with RO's $1.7 million bank account, it is certain that they will bulldoze their way to the ballot. All the while, knowing much of anything about them will likely have to come from reading tea leaves – aka internet searches – since any view into the inner workings under their corporate veil will only result from subpoenas, investigations, hearings, lawsuits and judgments, all of which will no doubt plague them long into their controversial trek to the ballot and beyond. What a way to begin this vibrant new industry in Ohio! If RO’s three-strike launch is any indication, they will force Ohio down its usual backward path of social change: one step forward, two steps back.