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There's Always Next Year for Legalization

Last week marked the beginning of fall in Cleveland—the season of sweaters, pumpkin-flavored everything and of course, City Club debates. This November, Ohio voters can decide on the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use—but it’s not that simple. The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, known as Issue 3, has gotten a lot of attention in the months leading up to Election Day, most recently due to the need to finalize its language for the ballot.

This initiative, backed by ResponsibleOhio, has bred an entirely separate issue beyond legalization. The amendment would limit the growing of commercial marijuana to 10 sites that are owned or optioned by the investors of the campaign.

This is where Issue 2, the Ohio Initiated Monopolies Amendment, comes in. It was crafted in response to Issue 3 and would prohibit monopolies, oligopolies and cartels from being written into the Ohio Constitution.
So proponents of Issue 3 and ResponsibleOhio are in a tight spot—not only do they need to persuade voters to vote yes on Issue 3, they must vote no on Issue 2.

And while many may be voting no on Issue 3 because they oppose legalizing marijuana, there are quite a few advocates of legalization who will also be voting no. I recently met with Jacob Wagner, an attorney, co-founder of Ohioans to End Prohibition, and an old friend of mine from high school. He was able to give me some insight into why OTEP is waiting for next year.

He explained that 2015 isn’t the right year for it to pass, because the electorate in the off-year elections tends to be more conservative. Sure, a controversial issue like this will get people to the polls, but in 2016 it will be a different crowd. OTEP is petitioning to get on the 2016 ballot, and Jacob tells me their amendment will have a true free market, more licenses available, individuals can home grow with fewer restrictions, and there will be more patient protections for medical marijuana. Jacob says that OTEP can afford to wait for better policy, and if they don’t get it done then someone else will.

We also discussed whether the black market would really diminish if Issue 3 passes. Jacob tells me the black market will continue to thrive because people aren’t getting the opportunity to distribute legally. This is his reason for wanting to end prohibition, because it brings the black market into the light and hopefully ends the crime associated with it.

So we speculated on potential outcomes of this year’s election. If both pass, Issue 2 would trump Issue 3 and ResponsibleOhio’s initiative may be dead in the water. If Issue 3 passes, they need Issue 2 to fail. If Issue 3 fails, perhaps we will be seeing these competing advocacy groups join forces in 2016.

The City Club invites you to speculate with us on October 5 at noon when we host a conversation between Ian James of ResponsibleOhio and William M. Denihan of the ADAMHS Board and a member of Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies. Come and get the facts on Issues 2 and 3. Ask a question. And make sure you are registered to vote. October 5th just happens to be the deadline.

 
[photo courtesy of thesmokingbud.com]

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