Home Politics Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: ResponsibleOhio’s mascot draws criticism

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: ResponsibleOhio’s mascot draws criticism

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ResponsibleOhio, a pro-marijuana legalization organization, has a new mascot that does not sit well with some Ohioans.

The group debuted their new mascot, Buddie, late last month. Buddie — a combination of a questionably muscular Shrek and a marijuana bud — is wrapped in a white superhero suit with a prominent ‘B’ plastered on his chest.

ResponsibleOhio has spearheaded Issue 3, otherwise known as the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative. If the initiative passes, doctors will be able to prescribe medical-use cannabis to patients, and recreational-use marijuana will be available to those over 21 who possess less than one ounce.

One particular part of the constitutional amendment would allow 10 designated sites to grow the substance provided they obtain a cultivation license from the state.

Buddie, along with other representatives from ResponsibleOhio, is going to college campuses across the state to register voters and promote Buddie’s 21 and Up Club, said ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Faith Oltman.

“On campuses and in bars, Buddie will be engaging millennial voters, who we know are least likely to vote during an off-year election and are the most likely to appreciate a goofy, irreverent character,” Oltman said.

The mascot’s appearance, however, has not come without its share of controversy. Opponents of ResponsibleOhio say the new mascot is marketing the currently illegal drug to minors.

“It’s irresponsible,” said Jen Detwiler, a spokesperson for the Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies movement, which campaigns against ResponsibleOhio. Although Detwiler’s organization does not support Issue 3, it does not actively campaign against pro-marijuana legalization.

“The issue is less about legalizing marijuana and more about creating financial benefits for a small group of already wealthy investors who stand to make millions if not billions if this amendment passes,” Detwiler said.

ResponsibleOhio, however, argues that Issue 3 will bring tens of thousands of jobs to Ohio and will bring tax revenue back to communities. Oltman predicts that as the market becomes more stable by 2020, Issue 3 will bring $554 million back to counties and communities in Ohio.

Buddie has even drawn comparison to Joe the Camel, a ‘90s marketing campaign from tobacco giant Camel that ended after a lawsuit determined the manufacturer was attempting to attract children as future customers.

“Minors aren’t going to see Buddie because Buddie only goes to college campuses where folks are 18 years or older the vast majority of the time,” Oltman said.

But Detwiler is not so sure. She said in addition to the questionable mascot, the proposal “will allow for a lot of edible products [that] pose a threat to children as well [because the edibles] often have much higher THC concentrations than a joint, and if left out in the open would be bad for children.”

After receiving nearly 700,000 signatures in June, ResponsibleOhio secured the issue’s spot on the November ballot. The organization hopes that its on-going college bus tour will get millennials to the polls. All Ohio voters will get a chance to express their opinions on Buddie and Issue 3 at polling stations on Nov. 5.

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