Ohio supreme court judge calls for legalisation of marijuana

An Ohio supreme court justice who is considering a run for governor has said it is time for the state to decriminalise marijuana.

William O’Neill, the lone Democrat holding an Ohio statewide office, said making marijuana legal was working in Colorado and doing it in Ohio would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in sales taxes.

O’Neill announced earlier this year that he was considering stepping down and making a run for governor, but he does not plan on making a decision until the end of the year.

In a speech mixed with his analysis of last year’s presidential election and thoughts about problems facing the state, O’Neill said he not only wants to legalise marijuana but also release all non-violent marijuana offenders from prison.

Those two things would generate an estimated $350m to both combat drug addiction and create a mental health network run by the state, he told members of the Wayne county Democratic party on Friday night.

“The time has come for new thinking,” O’Neill said in his prepared remarks. “We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass.”

He said the Democratic party needed new ideas in 2018 if it wanted to knock off Republicans, who control all branches of Ohio government.

O’Neill wants the Ohio department of mental health to reopen the network of state hospitals that were closed decades ago and change how the state deals with addiction.

“Treat addiction like the disease it is in the name of compassion,” he said.

There is already a crowded field lining up on both sides of the governor’s race.

For the Democrats, the Dayton mayor, Nan Whaley, as well as former congresswoman Betty Sutton, and former state legislators Connie Pillich and Joe Schiavoni are making runs.

The field on the Republican side includes congressman Jim Renacci and the Ohio secretary of state, Jon Husted, while the lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor, and the state attorney general, Mike DeWine, are widely expected to seek the GOP nomination.

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