Keeping Ohio Legalization Secret Is Marijuana Law Reform Malpractice


Did you know that in just twenty days, Ohio is going to voting on the legalization of marijuana? Yes, in 2015, fully a year before California’s next attempt, Ohio may join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska in creating the nation’s fifth legal marijuana market.

Like those four legal states, consumers will be able to possess an ounce of marijuana, in public.

Possession of an ounce of extract becomes legal, too, just like three of the legal states and four times more than Washington.

With a $50 home grow license, adult Ohioans can cultivate four mature marijuana plants, just like in Oregon. That’s one more mature plant for an adult than Colorado and Alaska. Washington State still doesn’t allow home grow.

Medical marijuana will be legalized, too, similar to Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. But Ohio will allow patients to self-administer medical marijuana at the workplace, something no other state allows.

The maximum allowed number of retail pot shops for Ohio consumers will be capped at 1,159, which is more outlets than all four of the current legal states combined.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has endorsed the measure, known as Issue 3 in Ohio. So, as you might imagine, the national org is marshaling all its resources online and in Ohio to ensure that legalization comes to the nation’s 7th most-populous state, right?

You’d imagine wrong. Here is NORML’s front page, 20 days away from an Ohio legalization vote:

Isn’t that strange? Absolutely no mention of a statewide legalization vote imminent in less than three weeks among ten blog posts and five feature sliders. Even the post on the Weekly Legislative Roundup makes no mention of Ohio.

But wait, maybe it’s on NORML’s Take Action page, where they catalog every single marijuana law reform measure pending in America…

Wow, that’s pretty stunning. A measure to legalize in Massachusetts in 2016 gets a mention, but not the one on the ballot being voted on in just 20 days in Ohio.

Well, what about the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)? They sank millions into getting Washington’s I-502 passed. That law had no home grow, instituted a per se DUID, and established the highest marijuana taxes in the world. What’s their website have to say about the big upcoming legalization vote?

But to be fair, DPA covers all drugs. Maybe we should just drill down to the “Drug policy in my state” page for Ohio.

The Ohio page has nothing to say about 2015 legalization in Ohio. But a look at their California page informs you that DPA is working on a legalization initiative for 2016 there.

What about Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)? Their board is officially neutral on the Ohio Issue 3, so we probably shouldn’t expect much on their front page.

Like DPA, maybe we should take a look at their specific Ohio page.

Finally! Somebody in the major national drug law reform groups has acknowledged on their current website that there is a legalization vote happening in 20 days in Ohio. Sure, it’s a non-committal “consider the measure” and not a “Vote for Issue 3 on Nov. 3”, but this lip service from a neutral MPP is more than the pro-Issue 3 NORML is showing on their website currently.

But while NORML has issued an endorsement “with reservations”, their state affiliate in Ohio sacked their former president for his endorsement of Issue 3. Ohio NORML leaders have been campaigning against the initiative. And this is the current Ohio NORML website:

The only mention of the upcoming statewide legalization vote from Ohio NORML is a “Latest News” article dated from August, discussing legalization’s “unlikely opponents”.

The article opens with a graphic of “Dysfunction Jct.”, makes passing reference to National NORML being in support of it, but waves that off because NORML hadn’t endorsed in August. The article isn’t updated to show that National NORML now does endorse it. The article concludes with two organizational quotes from Greens and Libertarians as to why they oppose Issue 3.

Ohio will be voting on medical marijuana in 20 days, as it is contained in the measure. So, what is Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s medical marijuana advocacy group, telling its supporters?

Again, let’s check the Ohio-specific page.

Nope, not a word.

Whether or not the Ohio Issue 3 is a good business model for commercial growing, whether or not the campaign for Issue 3 has been reckless, whether or not Issue 3 is the type of legalization these national marijuana reform organization prefer, it is advocacy malpractice to not inform Ohio’s marijuana consumers that the vote to end their own criminality is imminent.

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.