'The Big O' backs pot legalization

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

TOLEDO, Ohio -- NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, a former current NFL player and a prominent fashion designer are among the investors in a group that wants to legalize marijuana use in Ohio, organizers of the campaign announced.

The group called ResponsibleOhio on Friday released a list of 11 backers who include Ohio business people and philanthropists.

It's one of two legalization campaigns in Ohio despite opposition from all five statewide officeholders. ResponsibleOhio hopes to put its ballot measure before voters this fall. The plan would amend the Ohio Constitution to make marijuana legal for medical and personal use for those over 21 years old.

Robertson is the biggest name on the list of investors. He played at the University of Cincinnati in the late 1950s before going on to a stellar NBA career with the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks.

He said in a statement released by ResponsibleOhio that he was taking part because of the benefits from medical marijuana.

"It's a terrible feeling when you can't help someone suffering from cancer or another debilitating medical condition -- I know from personal experience," Robertson said in the statement. The NBA great had surgery a few years ago after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Veteran NFL defensive end Frostee Rucker, who played with the Arizona Cardinals this past season and earlier was with both the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, is another backer, as is New York-based fashion designer Nanette Lepore, a Youngstown native, the group said.

Columbus real estate developer Rick Kirk and Cincinnati radio station owner Frank Wood also are among the investors released by ResponsibleOhio.

Supporters envision a network of 10 growers sending the product to designated testing facilities for safety and potency screenings. The pot would then go to either not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries, retail outlets or to be infused into various consumer products.

The backers are members of investment groups that would oversee, manage and operate its facilities, ResponsibleOhio said.

ResponsibleOhio has said the proposal would generate revenue and create jobs for the state while making marijuana safe, controlled and tested. It has until July to submit enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

Attorney General Mike DeWine blasted the plan earlier in the week, saying it would create a monopoly and that marijuana could end up in products that children could get their hands on, such as candy.

"It's a stupid idea," he told reporters in Columbus at a legislative preview session for journalists organized by The Associated Press.