Governor candidate Bill O’Neill wants to legalize marijuana statewide


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Bill O’Neill, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said if elected, he would push to legalize marijuana and release nonviolent marijuana offenders, with the money raised and saved going to treat heroin addicts and the mentally ill.

During a Thursday editorial board meeting with The Vindicator, O’Neill, a retired Ohio Supreme Court justice, outlined his plans for such an effort.

O’Neill estimates the state could collect $500 million a year in sales tax on marijuana use – regulating it like alcoholic beverages – and save $100 million a year by releasing the 5,000 or so nonviolent marijuana offenders in prisons.

That $600 million would be used to open a mental health network to treat heroin addicts and the mentally ill, he said.

O’Neill said as a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, a former longtime judge and soon a retired registered nurse, “normal people would say that’s enough for a career. But when I looked around last year what caught my attention was we’re losing 5,000 citizens a year to heroin overdoses. I don’t think the state of Ohio is doing anywhere near enough to stop that.”

Also running in the Democratic primary are state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, ex-U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Richard Cordray, a former state treasurer and attorney general.

O’Neill’s platform also includes:

Establishing a $15-an-hour minimum wage in the state by the year 2020.

Placing solar panels made in the state on all government buildings that, he said, would pay for themselves in seven years and create jobs to design, produce and install them. Also, he’d give a state income tax credit to every homeowner or business installing solar panels made in the state.

Reduce the cost of state university tuition, room and board to no more than $15,000 a year within four years.

“We’re getting ripped off by the state university system,” he said. “Kids are coming out of college $100,000 in debt.”

O’Neill doesn’t support a ban on military-style assault weapons, but wants people with them to be required to go annually to their local police department or county sheriff’s office and register them. If a person has a record of “violence, drugs, alcohol or crime” their guns would be seized, he said.

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