The abysmal defeat of Ohio's 2015 legalization campaign, despite its $20 million dollar war chest, had less to with Ohioans' attitudes toward legal cannabis and far more to do with the approach of the bill’s backers – the now defunct ResponsibleOhio.
Led by James Gould along with Ian James, ResponsibleOhio was pushing to have provisions written into the Ohio Constitution that limited the state’s cultivation sites to 10, the majority of which were already owned by well-healed companies and entertainment moguls.
Now, several years later as Ohio’s now-legal medical marijuana program struggles to take shape, it comes out that Republican State Auditor, Dave Yost, recently accepted nearly $58,000 from Gould and his associates. Yost is supposedly monitoring Ohio’s MMJ program.
Gould, who did not secure a cultivation license in Ohio, had threatened to sue. But it seems that won’t be necessary. In a recent state audit, State Auditor Yost makes it clear that Ohio’s Department of Commerce made errors in their scoring of cultivator licenses. No names mentioned.
Could a new cultivator’s application from James Gould be far behind? Has Gould found an ally in State Auditor Yost?
Many Ohioans and the state Democratic party think yes to both questions.
“It certainly raises questions about the appearance of: Is there a quid pro quo going on here? Are these contributors giving money in the hopes of an outcome of an audit that is favorable to their personal interests? And will the auditor be affected by those contributions in how the audit is conducted?” said Erin Chlopak, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and former Federal Elections Commission official.
Ohio’s Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper went further.
“…it’s amazing that Dave Yost has once again been caught raising big money from an industry at the very time that he’s performing audits that directly impact that industry. This is everything that’s wrong with [state capitol] Columbus, and one more example of why Ohioans can’t trust Yost to do the right thing by them,” said Pepper, per the Dayton Daily News.