As marijuana users and advocates alike celebrated the notorious weed smokers’ holiday known as “420” this past month, it’s worth looking into how full legalization of the drug in Ohio could potentially help the state’s economy. Ohio is still set to implement its medical marijuana program this fall, but if the state fully embraces the cannabis industry and the culture that comes with it, it could possibly reap the benefits both socially and financially for years down the line.
Consider the fact that while 420 has been celebrated behind closed doors by pot smokers for decades, now the holiday is on full display in states like Colorado that have legalized the plant. There, a three day music festival called “420 On The Block” was held to celebrate marijuana culture and featured several large musical acts, local art galleries and loads of regional vendors. If this type of celebration sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re thinking of Columbus’ annual celebration of ComFest, where marijuana is usually being consumed openly anyway. If marijuana were legalized in Ohio, then ComFest could possibly go in this direction both economically and culturally, although some safeguards would likely have to be implemented to keep the drug away from minors.
In Athens, Ohio, this experiment has somewhat been unofficially tried, as an ordinance lowering the fines and court time for possession of marijuana to zero was passed last year. This month, a group of Athens pot users and activists held the first unofficial “TACOfest,” named for The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, or “TACO” for short (mmmm, tacos!). Based on the annual “hash bash” in Ann Arbor, the event came together informally via local activists trying to give users a public space to hang out and “chill.” The event included speeches from organizers with Grassroots Ohio, a group that is gathering signatures to bring full legalization in Ohio to the ballot in November. And while TACOfest was relatively small in size, with some other local festivals possibly coming to a close in the area, the potential of it growing in the future certainly exists.
One Ohio festival that could certainly see an uptick in similar marijuana use is the Nelsonville Music Festival. Grassroots Ohio activists are currently seeking to get a similar ordinance to TACO on the ballot in that city in November, as it would only take 120 signatures to do so. This means the law that paved the way for the first TACOfest could be applied to a music festival that has ComFest-like attendance, potentially making that festival an even bigger economic force in a city that could arguably use it.
Of course, it’s hard to say how the efforts to fully legalize the plant will proceed from here — our state’s coming medical marijuana program is still fraught with controversy and Ohio’s legislature has dragged its feet on the issue for years while other states have taken the lead. Therefore, as marijuana continues to grow as an economic force in the U.S., it could be up to local ordinances and ballot initiatives to truly change the culture here in Ohio.