Brrrr! It’s getting too cold for visitors to see Fiona

Published: Thursday, October 26, 2017 @ 5:18 PM

MUST SEE: Fiona spends time with momma Bibi

It’s getting too cold for Fiona, the beloved hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Hippos can only go outside if it’s at least 50 degrees with sunny skies. The zoo suggest checking the Zoo Today page on its website before visiting and too see all zoo updates.

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The 9-month-old Fiona, who weighed 29 pounds when she was born six weeks premature, is the smallest hippopotamus ever to survive. Normal birth weight is between 50 and 110 pounds.

Team Fiona fan proposes to girlfriend with help from hippo
On Wednesday, the scale tipped 550 pounds for the baby hippo who measured 5 feet long and 2.5 feet tall, the zoo reported. Adult female hippos can weigh between 1,400 and 5,000 pounds.

Should Ohio legalize recreational marijuana? Voters may decide in 2018.

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 7:57 PM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 6:35 PM

What to know about the legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio

Ohio voters could decide in 2018 to legalize marijuana for recreational use if supporters of a constitutional amendment are able to get the issue on the November ballot.

Cincinnati businessman Jimmy Gould and his business partner Ian James of Coumbus, the driving force behind the 2015 marijuana legalization issue that voters rejected by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, are behind a very different plan for 2018.

TAKE OUR POLL:Should Ohio legalize marijuana?

Gould and James are crafting ballot language for a constitutional amendment that would create a free market system for adult consumption of marijuana.

Highlights of the plan:

* Ohioans age 21 and older would be allowed to grow and use marijuana in private;

* commercial growers and sellers would be regulated similar to businesses that produce and sell alcohol;

* using marijuana in public would be prohibited;

* employers would retain the right to have drug free workplace policies and landlords would be allowed to prohibit its production and use on their property;

* operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana would be prohibited;

* local governments would control how many marijuana businesses operate in their community and voter approval would be required for dispensaries in their precincts.

To get on the November ballot, Gould and James need approval of their ballot issue from the attorney general and Ohio Ballot Board and then they’d have to collect 305,592 valid voter signatures by the July 4 deadline.

“Here is what I can assure you: this will be on the ballot. We will get the signatures and we will spend whatever is necessary to spend to get it on the ballot,” Gould said. “We will get the 305,000 signatures, no matter what it costs.

He noted that he and James are the only ones in Ohio to put a marijuana legalization question to the voters.

The two men failed to convince voters in 2015 that their “ResponsibleOhio” plan to grant 10 growing licenses to the investors bankrolling the multi-million dollar campaign was a good idea. But the issue did convince lawmakers that they’d rather adopt a highly regulated medical marijuana program — and write the rules — rather than risk it going to the ballot again.

Criticism of medical marijuana program

On Monday, Gould delivered a broadside of the Kasich administration over the state’s new medical marijuana program.

Gould and James less than two weeks ago learned their company had been passed over by the Ohio Department of Commerce for one of 12 coveted large-scale cultivator licenses for medical marijuana.

“If we lost in a fair and balanced process then we would accept that. That’s not what happened,” Gould said during an hour-long press conference in downtown Columbus.

Related: Springfield, Yellow Springs to get large scale marijuana operations

In June 2016, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law that authorizes marijuana use by patients with 21 conditions, including cancer or chronic pain, in the form of edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing. Patients and their caregivers will be allowed to possess up to a 90-day supply. Smoking or home growing it is barred.

Gould denies that the ballot proposal they are pushing for 2018 is sour grapes for not getting a medical marijuana license.

Still, Gould said that parallel to the ballot issue effort will be a full-scale legal challenge to the commerce department program. He called on Commerce Department Director Jacqueline Williams to step down and he pinned problems with the medical marijuana program on Kasich, who Gould described as an absentee governor.

“This thing has gotten to the point of the obnoxious, disgusting way governments get out of control when there is nobody at home watching the farm. No one,” he said.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Kerry Francis said she isn’t aware of any plans for Williams to resign.

Commerce officials have said they were unaware that Trevor Bozeman, whose company was hired to help score the applications, had been convicted of drug dealing in 2005. Bozeman could not be reached for comment. Applicants were required to undergo extensive background checks — a standard that Gould said should have also been applied to those scoring the proposals.

The 97 applicants who did not win one of the dozen licenses will be notified this week of the appeals process.

Related: Ohio announces first set of marijuana grower licenses

The Medical Marijuana Control Program is managed by the commerce department, pharmacy board and state medical board.

Regulators have been busy writing rules and guidelines for growers, processors, testing labs, dispensaries, patients and caregivers as well as reviewing and scoring applications for licenses. It is expected to be fully operational by September 2018.

Marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law.

Related: Marijuana campaign admits mistakes

Fiona the beloved hippo to say bye bye to the bottle

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 9:57 PM

Fiona the beloved baby hippopotamus at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will soon say goodbye to bottle feeding.

The zoo tweeted a video this week showing Fiona suckling from a hippo-sized baby bottle. Fiona’s care team will transition her to a diet of all solid foods over the next few days.

Fiona has come a long way since her premature birth in January, when she came into the world six weeks premature weighing less than 30 pounds. She’s now topping the scales well over 600 pounds.

A zoo spokeswoman said hippos are normally weaned between eight and 10 months, the Associated Press reported.

Fiona and her mother, Bibi, enjoy meals of hay, fruit, lettuce, beet pulp and grain.


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Judge Rice ‘incredibly honored’ federal building will be named for him

Published: Monday, December 04, 2017 @ 5:46 PM

            The federal building in downtown Dayton will bear the name of Judge Walter H. Rice.
The federal building in downtown Dayton will bear the name of Judge Walter H. Rice.(STAFF/File)

U.S. District Court Judge Walter H. Rice already has his portrait hanging in his courtroom, but he joked that the federal building in downtown Dayton having his name on it will have a practical use.

“This is good, because I’m rapidly reaching the age where I may not know where I am,” Rice told this news organization, “so it will be helpful.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) assembled a panel last year to choose a name for the site, which has not had a formal designation since its 1976 construction. The group recently unanimously chose Rice, and the change awaits final legislative approval.

RELATED: Downtown Dayton federal building to be named after Judge Rice

“I knew that there was a committee convened to make recommendations to the Congressman,” Rice said, “but I am certainly incredibly honored just to have it get this far.”

The panel was chaired by Dayton attorney Merle F. Wilberding and included Amanda Wright Lane, a great-grand-niece of the Wright Brothers, Dayton History Chief Executive Brady Kress and eight other members.

Turner credited Rice for his decades of service of work in the community including at the Dayton’s Veterans Administration and Wright Brothers historic sites.

MORE: Read other stories from Mark Gokavi

Rice, born in 1937, was appointed to the federal bench in June 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. He served as chief judge of the court from Oct. 13, 1996, to Oct. 12, 2003.

Rice assumed “senior status” in 2004 and received the Thomas J. Moyer award for judicial excellence in 2014. Rice’s first job in law was in 1964 when he was an assistant prosecutor for Montgomery County.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Mark Gokavi on Twitter or Facebook

Rice plans to work long after the building is officially named for him.

“This does not mean retirement, and I hope to remain doing what I’m doing for many years,” Rice said. “But anytime that someplace where you’ve worked for 38 years might bear your name is a flattering deal beyond any ability to describe.”

How will Ohio know gun owners don’t use medical pot? The honor system

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 12:20 PM

            John Thyne, owner of Peabody Sports in Clearcreek Twp., Warren County, is a federally licensed dealer. Here, he discusses gun background checks and internet sales of firearms. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
John Thyne, owner of Peabody Sports in Clearcreek Twp., Warren County, is a federally licensed dealer. Here, he discusses gun background checks and internet sales of firearms. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Once Ohio’s medical marijuana program gets off the ground, the state will rely on the honor system to ensure those seeking concealed-carry permits aren’t also licensed to use pot for medical reasons.

Federal law prohibits cannabis users from possessing a gun or getting a CCW, but background checks conducted before Ohioans buy firearms or get a concealed-carry permit won’t indicate whether or not someone is registered as a medical marijuana user.

The medical marijuana patient registry will be accessible only to qualified doctors, Ohio Board of Pharmacy spokesman Cameron McNamee said.

RELATED: No guns: Ohio’s medical marijuana users won’t be able to have firearms

“The patient registry itself is protected information and only those doctors who are certified will be able to access the patient registry,” he said.

If someone purchases medical cannabis from a licensed dispensary, that information will be entered into the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System to make sure someone doesn’t buy more than the legal limit of a 90-day supply. But access to OARRS is limited to doctors and pharmacists.

“It’s locked down pretty tight,” McNamee said.

Law enforcement and heathcare regulators – such as medical board or board of pharmacy investigators — only have access to these systems if they have an active drug investigation, McNamee said. They can’t take the data in bulk or go fishing for names.

RELATED: Next step taken in Ohio medical marijuana: 5 things you should know

This means the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) won’t have that information. NICS is the system used by licensed gun dealers and law enforcement agencies that issue concealed-carry permits to make sure someone is legally allowed to possess a gun.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office this week confirmed that Ohioans who use marijuana – even legally under state law – are prohibited from obtaining a concealed carry permit.

“Ohio CCW law requires persons to follow federal law,” spokesman Dan Tierney said. “Federal law prohibits you from having a firearm if you use marijuana because it’s a Schedule 1 drug.”

Gun buyers who purchase from a licensed dealer must sign a form attesting they don’t use marijuana, even medically. Lying on the form is a felony under federal law, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

But Ohio law doesn’t require a background check or federal form for same-state private firearm transactions, including many guns sold online or at gun shows, as long as the seller has no reason to believe the buyer is prohibited from possessing a gun.