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Will Ohio Legalize Marijuana Next Month?

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ohio marijuana medical marijuana legalizationBy Phillip Smith

It’s now less than three weeks until Buckeye State voters head to the polls in an off-year election, and they make make Ohio the first Midwestern state to legalize marijuana. A poll this week that asked specifically if respondents supported the initiative on the ballot had 56% saying yes.

They will be voting on Issue 3, a controversial proposal sponsored by ResponsibleOhio that would legalize both medical and recreational marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution. The measure would establish a 10-grower “monopoly” on commercial marijuana production (but not sales) and allow individuals to grow up to four plants for personal use if they pay a $50 license fee and if they keep the plants hidden from public view.

But despite the favorable poll numbers — even better than the 53% approval of a generic marijuana legalization question in a poll two weeks ago — victory is by no means a sure thing. It is an off-year election with traditionally low voter turnout among groups likely to be supportive, the effort is opposed by the state’s political establishment, and even if it wins, it could be tangled up in court for years because that GOP establishment has placed an initiative on the ballot, Issue 2, specifically designed to invalidate Issue 3. That initiative would bar Issue 3 from taking effect, as a constitutional “monopoly,” and would put similar questions on the ballot when other monopoly or oligopoly measures appear in the future.

If both initiatives pass, state officials say Issue 2 will supersede Issue 3, but other legal experts say it’s not so clear, especially if the legalization initiative wins more votes than the anti-monopoly initiative, which the new poll suggests it could If both pass, legalization will, at best, be delayed until the mess is sorted out in the courts.

With the exception of NORML, national drug reform groups have kept their distance. The NORML board of directors endorsed Issue 3 last month, but neither the Marijuana Policy Project nor the Drug Policy Alliance have, both of which endorse marijuana legalization in general, have made much noits about this initiative.

When it comes to in-state endorsements, ResponsibleOhio looks pretty isolated, with support from the Ohio ACLU, some UFCW locals, and a handful of elected officials, while those taking a stand against the measure include the state Green, Libertarian, and Republican parties, business groups, medical groups, law enforcement groups, children’s advocates, and many state political figures, including Republican Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine.

The initiative has also infuriated many Ohio marijuana activists, who see their years of work going up in smoke in the face of well-heeled investors in ResponsibleOhio, who have generally had little to do with marijuana reform, but who know a money-making opportunity when they see one. By buying into the campaign, those investors have secured their positions controlling the ten designated commercial grows.

“We don’t support the ResponsibleOhio initiative because we don’t believe it achieves the goals of legalization, said Sri Kavuru, president of Ohioans to End Prohibition (OTEP), which is campaigning to get its own initiative on the 2016 ballot. “I testified in favor of the anti-monopoly amendment, and I believe it will pass and get more votes than ResponsibleOhio,” he told the Chronicle in August.

The forthrightly named Citizens Against ResponsibleOhio doesn’t mind siding with the Republican legislature, either, said the group’s leader, Aaron Weaver.

“It is very interesting that all these different parties have come together with the same purpose in mind, to stop the hijacking of our constitution by private interests,” Weaver said. “It’s very strange indeed, but the collaboration of different groups for a mutually beneficial and moral purpose, I think, is a good thing.”

It’s also caused a split in Ohio NORML, with the state group throwing out its former leader, Rob Ryan, over his position in support of the initiative.

But the state’s largest pro-medical marijuana organization, the Ohio Patients Group, endorsed Issue 3 this week. The group said that, given the lack of a viable alternative and the legislature’s refusal to advance the cause, telling its members to vote against the initiative would be doing them a disservice.

“It wasn’t a perfect plan, but politics is never the art of the perfect, it’s the art of possible,” Pardee said.

But when you’ve got money, you don’t need that many friends. In a neat political and financial move, ResponsibleOhio and its chairman, Ian James, are using those investor dollars to finance their campaign advertising. The group has spent $3.1 million so far on TV ads, and has millions more where that came from to get them through the election.

The first ad, “Bring Addy Home,” which began airing in late August, features Heather Benton, who moved to Colorado in order to obtain medical marijuana to treat her four-year-old daughter’s seizures.

“We want to move back to Ohio, but we can’t because her medicine is illegal there,” says the exiled Benton. “It is time for marijuana reform. It is time to go home.”

One of the latest ads takes on the charge from opponents that the initiative would create a monopoly in the state’s Constitution. (Voters did something quite similar back in 2009, when they approved a constitutional initiative allowing a strictly limited number of casinos.). This initiative isn’t a monopoly, the ad argues.

“Like most states that legalized marijuana, it initially limits the number of growers with strict regulation,” a woman says in the ad. “That’s a regulated industry without creating a monopoly.”

Can ResponsibleOhio pull it off? We won’t know until the votes are counted, but if marijuana legalization wins in swing-state Ohio in 2015, that could take the politics of legalization to a whole new level in front of the 2016 general election, where the issue is already likely to be on the ballot in several states — Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada — and maybe more.

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88 Comments

  1. The Ohio chapter of the NAACP comes out against Issue 3.

    It released a statement Tuesday, Oct. 27, that said it was bad for families.

    The statement went on to say, “Issue three will make a few self-interested investors rich at the expense of the well-being of our children, our families and our communities.”

  2. I believe ALL plants are for our use on this planet. And yeapper..even opium plants ! I believe in total freedom with responsible actions taken from medical prospective. However unlike opioids which has a toxic level.. Cannabis does not cause death. I’m one of those people who are allergic to penicillin and there are many like me, yet there are many who benefit from this drug. Cannabis can be eaten or juiced or smoked and those not everything is meant for everyone, Cannabis is a gift from nature that CAN be a part of many modalities. Besides why can’t one have the freedom to do what they will with their bodies?!

  3. Nice try but you are 100% wrong. You cannot tell anyone with a brain in their heads that smoking pot does not increase the chance of getting in an accident. This is no evidence? Really? What about basic common sense. Comments like yours are why I am voting no on issue 3. Let’s at least be honest about the true facts. Smoking pot does affects ones life way more than responsible alcohol consumption. The vast majority of people who drink do not get drunk. Everyone who smokes pot gets stoned. Besides, people who smoke pot also drink so they are actually doing both which makes it even more dangerous. Legalizing pot will not free up any jail space whatsoever. No one goes to prison for smoking pot in Ohio. This is a fact. Drug dealers who sell pot also sell other drugs so their will still be the same number of drug dealers. This is also a fact. To say pot has no adverse affect on people’s lives is a lie being told to you by pot heads. How many pot heads are highly successful? hardly none is the answer. There are a few but overall hardly none.

  4. You should chill JONTOMAS. I’ve been smokin since 1967, and some of my best friends are from Co and Wa. Try xanax………

  5. and you dont even live in ohio to vote so why are you even on this blog commenting? go back to the mountains you dirty hippie and make your moonshine. never said I didnt smoke was talking about more than half the people that do nowadays their minds wander and they make dumb decisions that makes every Norml casual smoker look bad. Colorado & Washington legalized between 2010 & 2014 there has been an increase by 92% in fatal vehicle accidents. go back into the mountains dirty hippie

  6. Light Weight HUH? LOL been blazin since 1994 & what were you 2 years old then? LOL never said I can’t smoke & focus, more than half the people that smoke now cant handle it and their minds wander and get spaced out that leads to dumb decisions also drop out of school, yea youre a dirty hippie from the mountains in a different state than yours blog talking nonsense. Colorado & Washington legalized between 2010 & 2014 there has been an increase by 92% in fatal vehicle accidents.

  7. A real drug addict loser would say comment that you make , Colorado & Washington legalized between 2010 & 2014 there has been an increase by 92% in fatal vehicle accidents

  8. And you are a burnout junkie dirty hippie marijuana should be medicinal only, “Colorado & Washington legalized between 2010 & 2014 there has been an increase by 92% in fatal vehicle accidents” what do you think of those facts?

  9. look it up dumb dumb marijuana is not for the average persons mind thats why dirty hippies ruin it for the casual Norml smoker, “Colorado & Washington legalized between 2010 & 2014 there has been an increase by 92% in fatal vehicle accidents” that proves marijuana is very potent and should only be for “Medicinal”, the other states that are “Medicinal” only have alot more less issues, Washington & Colorado high school people are already declining in schoolwork and grades also more school suspensions, DeWine already visited there this summer and seen for himself. VOTE YES ON 2 / VOTE NO ON 3

  10. Thank you for this, wasn’t sure how to vote but after reading this I know. I have tried to print your reply above can be printed out but having trouble. tried sharing it on facebook but isn’t showing. (Go figure!) Planning on voting NO on Issue 2 and YES on Issue 3 Again Thank you.

  11. How moronic and false. Fatal accidents have actually gone down in the Free States.

    Marijuana is not alcohol. The preponderance of the research shows marijuana consumption is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents.

    In February, the Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk report, produced by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk.
    In fact, after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, the report found that stoned drivers were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not intoxicated at all.

  12. David Yoseph Schreiber on

    Issue 2 EXPLICITLY annuls issue 3 in and the legalization of cannabis. The issue of monopoly is only an act of misdirection. This is the text.

    “If, at the general election held on November 3, 2015, the electors approve a proposed constitutional amendment that conflicts with division (B)(1) of this section with regard to the creation of a monopoly, oligopoly, or CARTEL for the sale, distribution, or other use of any federal SCHEDULE 1 controlled substance … that entire proposed constitutional amendment shall not take effect.”

    In any case the financial backers of Ohio legalized cannabis are entitled to a monopoly for a reasonable period of time so as to recover their investment plus a fair rate of return. This is conceptually the same as copyrights and patents giving artists and inventors a temporary exclusive right to the creation they paid for in cash and time. Really this all should have been done by an act of the state legislature, but because they were derelict of duty a cumbersome safeguard must be used. Issue 2 is a fraud and should be voted down. It seeks to use economic misinformation to defeat legal cannabis in Ohio.

  13. Here’s one of the reasons to not smoke all day long & “RESPONSIBLE” you dirty hippie, since Colorado & Washington legalized between 2010 & 2014 there has been an increase by 92% in fatal vehicle accidents because of junkie hippies smoking & driving not paying attention you dumb dumb.

  14. saynotohypocrisy on

    “This law just penalizes those who have a sincere passion to grow in the market”

    It’s not fair to those people, that’s it’s biggest flaw. But that’s not sufficient reason to pass up this golden opportunity to legalize all personal use, and personal growing, and mandate non-profit sale of medicinal marijuana in a bellweather state like Ohio.The prohibitionist piglets are praying that this loses. You really want to make their day?

  15. saynotohypocrisy on

    “the way that these investors bought a law that may be passed is disgusting”

    Yeah but prohibition is a lot more disgusting, and patients suffering or dying because their medicine is illegal is beyond disgusting, it’s a crime against humanity, and Ohio voters have a chance to say that’s finished in Ohio. And RO investor control of all commercial grow sites isn’t going to last that long, people are learning pretty quickly that cannabis for adults is no big deal, and doesn’t need this level of surveillance
    Free people, then work on free markets.

  16. Guess what? Those anti-trust laws you mention STILL EXIST.
    Now, how exactly do you think the dozens (so far) or hundreds (likely) of growers who will use the ten authorized parcels of land, will be able to violate the Sherman Anti-Trust Act all while under the close scrutiny of both the public – many of whom, like yourself, are chomping at the bit to accuse them of collusion – and the even closer scrutiny of the MCC?
    Issue 3 restricts commercial growing to 13.5 million square feet of land, that is all. For reference, only about 2 million square feet of land is authorized for commercial growing in Oregon.
    Each grower who utilizes the authorized land is required, and able, to get a commercial growing license.

    THERE IS NO MONOPOLY.

  17. It keepa me emotionally present and clear deals with boredom and the pain from an accident i had as well and chronic migraines from 4-5 yrs old. I can testify, its saved my butt miraculously many a times, the way it sweeps away my pain but leaves me, after becoming adjusted well enough to it and or knowing the right amount to smoke, yet leaves me with really conplete feeling of normalcy, the way otherwise i would not be able to function!!!! I quit for three and a half years and had much more crippling headaches at that time, no question about it. The thing is a natural option for ptsd, depression, cabin fever, appetite loss, (a strong sativa or crystally hybrid, for sleep issues or rough pain heavy indicas. Its reduces aggression and whimsicalnes or hastiness, it allows you to see things with a different twist and as pure as it is these days it frees you up with zero groggy, thats why the opinion across the nation is what it is, because people are seeing what they are seeing, and are compelled, bless them, to speak true to what it is. We all should give it up to people like Woody Harrelson or Jennifer Anniston or Louis Armstrong who were saying this stuff 20 years ago almost. It should be equated with beer because it is found with drinkers, i would argue, more than its found or genuinely outside laws considered to have correlation or relation with heroin, meth crack pcp ecstacy coke. Way doesnt make sense to artificially forcably leave it in that unfitting category, all science shows that its easier on the lungs by far than cigarettes, hat its users are far less likely to be involved in domestic violence in using marijuana. Where is its evil? The reason to leave marijuana in its current status classified as a dangerous drug is, would be that it is a health issue for people, since it really only causes trouble as a criminal issue, its better to admit the mistake of it sooner so as to look less bad and as progressive pioneering leaders, like we showing that we are, #four states and counting. The idea that in 46 states we are still inclined to choose a beer over a vaporizer or bong or marijuana cookie or a joint is ludicrous

  18. No. Issue 3 authorizes home-growing. Further, it’s very likely marijuana arrests – especially for personal amounts – will end immediately after the passage of 3.

  19. How ignorant. – Issue 3 gives everyone the right to home grow.
    Further, even if the state were to grow and sell all the marijuana, similar to states that have state-run liquor stores, that would STILL be great legalization compared to what exists now.
    Issue 3 is MUCH better than state-run, so there’s absolutely no reason to vote against 3 – That is, unless you’re one of the selfish, black-market growers who don’t want ANY legalization.

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