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Proponents of marijuana legalization visit Miami

By Jack Evans, For The Miami Student

ResponsibleOhio's Green Rush tour bus rolled on to campus last Monday, Aug. 31, with high hopes that the college-age vote will help them pass the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Issue 3.

With bright green signage and a marijuana-themed mascot named "Buddie," the activist group was primed to attract the college-age voter. However, while some Miami students supported Buddie's visit, others found his presence controversial.

According to ResponsibleOhio's website, the Green Rush campaign aims to hit over 150 locations within Ohio's 88 counties. Many of these stops include college campuses. Among those visited, they have toured the University of Dayton, University of Cincinnati and now Miami University.

This focus on younger constituents may turn out to be a savvy political move for the proponents of Issue 3.

In 2013, a National Institute of Health Survey reported that those between the ages of 18 and 25 were more likely to have used pot in their lifetime than any other age group, at almost 52 percent. ResponsibleOhio hopes that with the prospect of legalization, the Green Rush tour can motivate this traditionally underrepresented voting demographic to say "yes" on Issue 3.

Many students are quite supportive of the group's appearance on campus and welcomed the Green Rush bus' aims. First-year Ethan Hendricks voiced his opinions on the legalization of marijuana.

"I support legalization. I think our resources can be put to better use than fighting marijuana," Hendricks said.

To other students, the campaign is acceptable, even if they don't plan to vote yes on Issue 3.

"I'm perfectly okay with these groups coming to campus and giving their opinion," said Greg Hess, a first-year diplomacy and global politics major. "It's an important part of the democratic process."

Others, however, have expressed concern over ResponsibleOhio's appeals toward a younger crowd, especially in regards to the mascot, "Buddie."

"I have seen critics already point at the marketing done by ResponsibleOhio as being targeted at those underage to legally possess based on their proposal," said Claire Wagner, Miami's director of communications.

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Some members of the community are specifically worried about the vibrant mascot's appeal to very young kids.

"We didn't believe it when we saw the photos. We were pretty shocked," said Nick Lashutka, president of the Ohio Children's Hospitals Association in an interview with Cincinnati's WLWT5. "This is nothing less than a ploy to market to children."

Many college students interacting with the Green Rush tour are under the age of 21, which would be the legal age for consumption of marijuana under Issue 3. In addition, the Green Rush bus tour made no contact with the Office of Student Activities or the News and Communications Office before arriving on campus.

Ian James, the executive director of ResponsibleOhio, defended criticism regarding the marketing of "Buddie" toward those under 21.

"Buddie is a fictitious character that has a '21 and Up Club,'" James said. "He works on the college campuses to reach the millennial voters and talks to them, helps them with voter registration, both by mail, and social media. It's all geared to the folks who are 21 and up."

Regardless of the success of the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative in voting booths, the passage of the law will likely create zero material changes regarding marijuana and drug policies at Miami, Wagner said.

"Even if marijuana possession may be made legal at the state level, it is still a federal violation," Wagner said. "Permitting it on a campus would be a violation of the Drug Free Schools and Workplace Act."