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Ohio Voters Will Vote On Marijuana Legalization In Three Weeks


ohio marijuana medical marijuana legalizationThree weeks from today Ohio voters will caste their ballots and decide if ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization initiative will become law or not. Ohio Issue 3 would legalize the possession of marijuana, personal cultivation of marijuana, and for some, the ability to cultivate marijuana for profit. The initiative has caused a lot of controversy because of that last provision. Many people oppose a provision of the initiative that grants just ten cultivation-for-profit locations.

Many people see this as there only being ten entities that can grow marijuana in Ohio for profit if the initiative passes, which isn’t entirely true. Yes, the licensees could decide to not allow anyone else to grow at their locations, keeping all of the profits for themselves. However, they also can lease out cultivation space to other people who can then grow for profit. So is it an oligarchy? It could be, but not necessarily.

The ResponsibleOhio initiative has been hard for some activists and organizations to swallow, with some people endorsing the initiative, some staying neutral, and some adamantly opposing it in public every chance they get. Hardworking activist Russ Belville is about the only longtime activist that I’ve seen lend his full support to the initiative, with others that endorsed it taking more of a ‘plug your nose and vote yes’ approach. Russ has fought very hard to educate people about what ResponsibleOhio’s initiative does and doesn’t do. He has put up with a virtually never ending supply of personal attacks, yet has remained quite polite about it, and hasn’t let those attacks steer him from educating the masses. Regardless of how you feel about ResponsibleOhio, we should still all agree that Russ’ work is commendable.

Russ has made some very great points about the initiative, probably my favorite of which is highlighting the hypocrisy of people and organizations supporting even more restrictive models for medical marijuana in many states while at the same time very much opposing the Ohio recreational initiative. Per an article Russ wrote for Marijuana Politics:

Their opposition to a few rich people in control of growing shouldn’t be confused with the medical marijuana laws eagerly supported by these same drug reform orgs. Laws like Connecticut’s that only allow a maximum of ten growers and require a $25,000 non-refundable application fee and $2,000,000 in escrow. Or New Jersey’s that allows only six growers. Or New York’s that allows only five growers. Or New Hampshire’s that allows only four growers.  Or Minnesota’s that allows only two growers. For some reason, a handful of wealthy people getting rich selling marijuana (or non-smokable marijuana products in Minnesota and New York) to patients isn’t reason enough for the marijuana law reform organizations to avoid promoting or to outright oppose those laws.

Ohio’s grow oligopoly isn’t even as restrictive as those five medical marijuana states. While those states limit medical marijuana cultivation specifically to the holders of 10, 6, 5, 4, or 2 licenses, Ohio is limiting cultivation to ten already-owned plots of land. There is no limitation on how many licensed growers may be cultivating those 13,000,000 square feet. Already the owner of the Licking County property has agreed to lease 15 acres of it for a medical cannabis research facility. The owners of four properties have assured the Ohio Rights Group that they will be leasing to multiple artisanal small grows.

That flexibility is confirmed by the amendment itself, which states, “[no laws]shall prohibit the creation of transferrable and recordable legal descriptions or separate tax parcel numbers for any of the [grow sites].” It also allows the grow sites to “expand its structures and related operations to adjacent real property”. Best of all, unlike the licenses issued in other legal states, which can be subject to the whims of state and local lawmakers and regulators, these plots of land are constitutionally protected for the right to cultivate commercial cannabis. Furthermore, after four years, if these 13,000,000 square feet aren’t producing enough quality cannabis to satisfy demand, the state may open up more land for commercial growing.

I will say that when the states Russ mentions legalized medical marijuana, everyone of them was hailed as an amazing victory for the movement. So why not Ohio? as tends to be the case with reform organizations and many activists, those efforts were celebrated and praised because they were the ideas of those organizations and/or activists I think. At least that’s what I’ve seen happen. As far as I know ResponsibleOhio hasn’t received any help from national organizations, nor have they asked for it from what I know. Had they tried to engage the national organizations more, maybe things would be different, but I guess we will never know.

I have always said that the states mentioned in Russ’ article have lame medical marijuana laws, and that they should be improved dramatically. With that being said, those efforts were a step in the right direction, so I was OK when they passed. That’s basically how I feel about ResponsibleOhio. If people vote for it, I’m fine with that. If they oppose it, I’m fine with that. But I’m only fine with either scenario if the people are casting an educated vote. Know the facts. Don’t vote based off of knee-jerk reactions or based only off of what you heard third hand. There is plenty of information out there that is just a couple of clicks away, so there is no excuse for anyone supporting or opposing the initiative without knowing exactly why.

For me personally, the ‘ten cultivation site’ rule doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the campaign’s strategy. Every Ohio citizen can grow their own under the initiative, so I have always felt that if people truly don’t like the initiative and it passes, they can grow their own and encourage others to do so and not buy marijuana from the ten entities. That’s not an option in Washington, where people are forced to buy overpriced marijuana from licensed stores, or go to the black market. The same is true in many medical marijuana states, all of which were hailed by national organizations as good reforms.

I don’t like ‘Buddie’ the marijuana mascot. I don’t like that ResponsibleOhio hasn’t tried to work with national reform organizations or national activists. I definitely don’t like that ResponsibleOhio has tried to bash Colorado’s legalization model in an attempt to make their model look better. It’s OK to tout how the provisions of one state’s legalization model are better than others, which I do with Oregon’s model quite often. But it’s another thing to directly attack another state, basically using the playbook of long time marijuana opponents. Campaigns shouldn’t need to use gimmicks, or try to attack other models. Marijuana prohibition is a horrible thing, and states should pursue more sensible laws. That’s what campaigns should be focused on. There is enough infighting in the movement as it is, we definitely don’t need more. ResponsibleOhio is making it harder for states that want to pursue reform in the future, as marijuana opponents will now likely point to things like ‘Buddie’ the marijuana mascot as reasons to not support reform.

I have maintained since the beginning of the Ohio campaign that this is an issue for Ohio voters to decide. I can type til my fingers fall off, and talk until I’m blue in the face as to why people should vote for the initiative, or why people shouldn’t vote for the initiative. Ohio voters have to decide if this is the best that they can do for legalization, which is significant because there hasn’t been any other effort that has came even close to making the ballot in Ohio. Also Ohio voters have to ask themselves, ‘is waiting another year worth it?’ How many more people will get arrested in that year? How many patients will be forced to go without lifesaving medicine in that year? What if 2016 doesn’t workout if voters wait, because as I’ve said, Ohio hasn’t been high on any national org’s radar prior to this election, and sadly, I don’t see that changing if/when ResponsibleOhio loses on November 3rd (despite all of their rhetoric that Ohio can do better).

What do Ohio readers think? I’ve never been to Ohio, and I truly don’t know what the chances of future efforts from within the state are. That’s why I defer to Ohio residents. Do you plan on voting for Issue 3? Why or why not? And for that matter, do you plan on voting for Issue 2, which would eliminate some of the provisions of the legalization initiative if both passed, why or why not?


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  1. SmittyOhio,
    Thanks for coming to my defense, your description was very accurate. You touched on a sensitive subject concerning raiding Miami Valley NORML funds. I have a 1st hand report that the Ohio NORML current President has either promised or has funded Sri Kavuru (OTEP) efforts using Ohio NORML funds. This is in complete and utter violation of Ohio NORML’s policies.

    I urge you to be a part of making history and help pass issue 3. One easy way is to get some cards that help people to Vote No on Issue 2, Vote Yes for Issue 3 & Re-legalize Marijuana. At your local Staples store ask for Staples Order # 6828868606 & get 500 cards for $9.99. See my Facebook LINK for visual image of the cards.

    If you only want a handful email info@oaro.org.
    Best Wishes to a November 3rd :)

  2. JohnB, Thank you for your accurate assessment of my position within Ohio NORML. I urge everyone interested in passing Issue 3 in Ohio to talk to friends, relatives and people you encounter. Those one on one conversations have a huge influence are actually more potent than the TV ads. Yes on 3, No on 2 :)

  3. Right, so far the ten sites have made commitments to 16 growers, and hundreds of other proposals are in front of the land owners for consideration.

  4. The last part of your post may be the most important; Rob Ryan’s ouster was directly related to his support of issue 3, and the handful of frothing-at-the-mouth opponents of issue 3 in Ohio NORML prevailed.
    Now Rob can be gruff, no doubt, and that was the pretext for his removal, but everyone needs to know the real reason was that he simply agreed with the exact same position taken by National NORML, which is support of issue 3.
    The whole thing is a microcosm of the greater debate; a handful of strident idealists are prepared to shout down and deny a real opportunity to enact cannabis law reform, simply because it wasn’t their effort or their way of doing it.

  5. I am in Wilmington, Ohio, where the fuss of the moment is the heroin “epidemic”.

    Here is what I posted to the forum of the local newspaper:

    Actually, there is an easy way to achieve 25% reduction in heroin overdose mortality.

    JAMA published a research study that conducted a time-series analysis of medical cannabis laws and state-level death certificate data in the United States from
    1999 to 2010 — a period during which 13 states instituted laws allowing for cannabis therapy.

    Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” Specifically, overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20percent one year after the law’s implementation, 25 percent by two years, and up to 33 percent by years five and six.

    They concluded, “In an analysis of death certificate data from 1999 to 2010, we found that states with medical cannabis laws had lower mean opioid analgesic
    overdose mortality rates compared with states without such laws. This finding persisted when excluding intentional overdose deaths (ie, suicide), suggesting
    that medical cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality among individuals using opioid analgesics for medical indications.
    Similarly, the association between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates persisted when including all deaths related
    to heroin, even if no opioid analgesic was present, indicating that lower rates of opioid analgesic overdose mortality were not offset by higher rates of
    heroin overdose mortality. Although the exact mechanism is unclear, our results suggest a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic
    overdose mortality.”

    link to JAMA (Journal of the America Medical Assoc.)


    Though the researchers are not sure of the *why* of this reduction in needless tragic deaths, there is no doubt that to continue with marijuana/marihuana/cannabis
    prohibition means having significantly higher death rates.

    And this is just one of many therapeutic uses of medicinal cannabis. Ohioans must now suffer or leave the state if they choose medicinal cannabis. That is harmful to people.

    Ohio has a chance November 3 with Issue 3 to end cannabis prohibition and the many harms associated with this monumental failure of policy.

    This could-and should-have been dealt with by the Ohio legislature, but all they could muster is Issue 2, a disappointing effort to stifle citizen reform of

    Like it or not, marijuana is here, its been here, it will be here.

    The root of the marijuana problem is the criminalization of a behavior that is a private choice of a means to medicate and/or relax by individuals, not unlike one’s
    personal choice (called Liberty, in America) of herbal tea remedies or a glass of wine or brew after a hard days work…(as for the wine and beer-remember that previous failed effort at alcohol prohibition? What insanity [repeats of actions expecting different results] that alcohol prohibition was recognized for the failure it was and ended in only 13 years while we approach 100 years of failed cannabis prohibition.)

    Every year, we can continue to watch hundreds of millions of dollars go to the violent Mexican drug cartels with the current black market, or create a legal market
    that is taxed (with tax proceeds going directly to local and county governments) and regulated in order to keep cannabis away from those that are underage.

    Spending 120 million dollars each year to attempt to enforce clearly unenforceable cannabis prohibition combined with foregoing hundreds of millions in tax revenue for our underfunded local and county governments is a stale and unproductive policy.

    Vote NO on Issue 2 in order to preserve our right to reform and alter government.

    Vote YES on Issue 3 in order to end the failed policy of cannabis prohibition.

  6. It’s getting bizarre here in OhighO.

    While NORML at the national level has endorsed ResponsibleOhio (RO), it appears that only the Miami Valley NORML chapter has endorsed RO, while all other Ohio chapters rejected RO. It would appear then that Ohio NORML does not endorse RO though there has yet to be any announcement of the results of the poll of all Ohio NORML members, or official position of Ohio NORML.

    The fact of the matter is that unless properly $funded$, any and all ballot initiatives will likely face a steep uphill struggle that is just about impossible under Ohio’s less than optimum ballot access process.

    Those that want *perfection* in the repeal of cannibis prohibition in Ohio would be better served to support RO then work to improve it as that may be a damn sight easier than starting from scratch with little or no funding. We may have to wait five years for relief if RO fails…I hope the anti-RO perfectionists are content that a vote against RO is a vote to sustain the status quo…possibly for many years.

    While it is disappointing to see the display of anti-RO attitude among the cannabis community we may be fortunate that their votes are a small part of the electorate.

    The issue will be decided largely by people that are not stoners, people that see a miserable failure of a policy-cannabis prohibition-that is just too expensive in human as well as tax dollars.

    In these times of tight and shortfall budgets, how idiotic is it for Ohio to continue to:

    -waste 120 million dollars per year to enforce the obviously unenforceable

    -forego hundreds of millions of tax revenue that instead flows to the *monopoly* nasty drug cartels

    -arrest 18-20,000 Ohio residents per year for cannabis possession

    -refuse Ohio citizen’s access to medicinal-theraputic cannabis (medicine that can be grown at home rather than purchasing expensive pharmaceutical chemicals)

    Issue 2 is a thinly disguised and hurridly cobbled together effort by the do-nothing-about-cannabis-prohibition Ohio House and Senate to block RO, using anti ‘monopoly’ BS as their excuse for attempting to thwart home-rule by Ohioans. Remarkably, these legislators can’t be bothered by ‘monopoly’ control of Ohio casinos and privately-operated prisons-for-profit that are operating in Ohio.

    Ohioans should vote NO on issue 2 in order to preserve their right to alter government

    Ohioans should vote YES on issue 3 in order to RE-legalize cannabis/marihuana/marijuana

    Interestingly, Ohio NORML at the state level is apparently attempting to grab the cash raised by the Miami Valley NORML chapter. MV NORML has been the leader in fundraising due in no small part to the energetic efforts of former Ohio NORML and Miami Valley NORML president Rob Ryan, who was ejected in a very due-process-less procedure due to the dissatisfaction of some members regarding Rob’s even-handed support for any and all efforts that seek to end cannabis prohibition…including-and especially-ResponsibleOhio.

  7. saynotohypocrisy on

    There’s also the new information in this Weedblog post, at least new to me, that the owners of these 10 sites can lease land to other growers, and some are willing to do that. So not as much of a monopoly/oligopoly as we thought.

  8. saynotohypocrisy on

    There it is, in a nutshell. Which is more important, having the people who use cannabis (including patients who NEED it) be free, or that the market that sells to them is free? Free people, then free markets.

  9. John Pardee, the leader of ORG – a group that tried for YEARS to make the ballot the grassroots way – has come out in support of issue 3. In fact, ORG at large has an official position of supporting issue 3.
    John’s reasons for switching from being an opponent to being a supporter boil down to his finally conceding that grass roots simply can’t get it done. There just isn’t enough strong volunteerism for the issue in Ohio to gather up 306,000 signatures (which translates into 600,000 signatures in reality).
    He realized that a professional PAC with deep pockets has the best chance ever, and at the end of the day if issue 3 passes, the medical patients about whom he is primarily concerned will at least get medical cannabis.
    In other words, he got his eye back on the ball, which is simply getting cannabis legalized.
    If the leader of the most successful grass roots cannabis organization in Ohio ever is saying that grass roots efforts can’t get it done, based on his real, first-hand experience, then Sri Kavuru over at OTEP would do well to listen, and throw their support behind issue 3 as well.
    It’s not too late for them to have an impact this year.

  10. Exactly! – After all our decades of struggle, sacrifice and suffering we have endured to achieve freedom in these states, any attempt to take that freedom away again would inspire the most revolutionary thought since the 60s!

  11. No. FIRST, vote for FREE PEOPLE!

    So many “reformers” have become blinded by greed and lost their way!

    Then there are lots of newcomers who aren’t really reformers at all – just profit seekers.


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