Cincinnati mayoral candidate hands out free 'pot plants'

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Cincinnati mayoral candidate handed out free 'marijuana' plants on Wednesday afternoon.  But, as it turns out, they were just tomato plants.

Nonetheless, dozens of people lined up near the University of Cincinnati campus to get their hands on one.

Jim Berns, who is running for mayor, says it could be a big money saver for the city.

"The City of Cincinnati can save a lot of money if they don't have police chasing after some minor offenders in marijuana, and focus on real crime. Not harassing people who want to smoke a little marijuana," said Berns.

He handed out the plants at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Clifton Avenue.

"How many people want to grow marijuana on their back porch," Berns yelled to onlookers.

Signs touting 'free marijuana plants' were waved at cars and those walking by in an effort to rally support for some form of legalization of the drug.

"The state can make millions, if not billions, of dollars making this into a legal industry, and that we don't have to have all these police chasing petty criminals around," said Berns.

But, for many of those who got a plant, they knew what they were getting.

"A bit of a promo stunt, absolutely, but I knew what I was coming here for, a tomato, that's obvious," said Branden Francis, who got his hands on one.

FOX19 asked Berns if he was concerned that anyone could have been arrested if the plants were, in fact, marijuana.  He seemingly didn't have a problem breaking the law, and then walked away from one of our questions.

Berns said, "If you're going to be an American these days, you better have a little balls, and do what you think is right, and I think what I'm doing today, bringing attention to this is worth a little risk.  If I were arrested, it's probably nothing better they can do for my campaign than arrest me."

Our reporter than asked, "Even though this, assuming they're marijuana, is still illegal?"

"You know, the crowd's waiting for me.  I'm going to get back to them," Berns replied as he walked away.

A vote to legalize marijuana in Ohio could be on a ballot next year if 385,000 valid signatures are collected.

The bill would establish a commission to regulate the use of medical marijuana, and permit Ohioans to grow hemp for other uses.

In our commitment to balanced news, we reached out to Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, who are both running for mayor, to get their thoughts on Wednesday's event with Jim Berns.

Cranley told FOX19 he had no response.  A representative for Qualls' campaign told us they also had no response.

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