Kevin Drum’s “Marijuana for Millionaires” or Continuing Marijuana Prohibition in Ohio


Kevin Drum wrote a post this weekend for Mother Jones entitled “Marijuana for Millionaires“. In it, he expressed his disgust for the legalization amendment Issue 3 to be voted on in Ohio tomorrow, because it constitutionally vests all the commercial marijuana growing rights to ten specific plots of land owned by the campaign investors.

Issue 3 turns out to be surprisingly fascinating—or venal and repellent, depending on your tolerance for sleaze. … I don’t care what they’re legalizing. This stinks. It’s crony capitalism without even a veneer of decency, and if it applied to anything else nobody would have the gall to ever let it see the light of day. If this is the price of pot legalization, count me out.

Kevin Drum can write that without a care in the world, because it appears he has no skin in the game. “I’ve never smoked a joint in my life,” Drum wrote in 2009. “I’ve only seen one once, and that was 30 years ago.” Perhaps now that marijuana has been legalized in a few places, he’s relented and tried a joint. But I doubt it, since Drum also added, “I barely drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t like coffee. When it comes to mood altering substances, I live the life of a monk. I never really cared much if marijuana was legal or not.”

The problem, Mr. Drum, is that I and hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers in Ohio do have skin in the game. We are subject to this thing called prohibition in Ohio that allows police to interfere with our liberty over the smell or alleged smell of an aromatic herb on our person, to be detained for even the pretext we may be involved with the criminal distribution of the skunky weed. And some of us aren’t well-off, middle-aged, or white enough like you to avoid being profiled for that law enforcement interference.

The best case scenario we have in an encounter with an officer of the state is the confiscation of our marijuana and a minor misdemeanor that equals a $150 fine. I can probably handle that fine. Maybe a poor black young man cannot and this begins the cycle of unpaid fines that lead to bench warrants that lead to arrests that lead to unemployment that lead to crime.

But don’t confuse Ohio’s current law with “decriminalization”. Yes, there is no arrest for up to 100 grams possession of marijuana in Ohio, but it is still a minor misdemeanor that ends up on your background check. These minor misdemeanors can also mean the suspension of your driver’s license for six months to five years [ORC 2925.11(E)(2)]. For the rest of your life, “drug suspension” remains on your driving record, unless you pay lawyers to help you get your records sealed.

That’s the best case scenario. Our interface with law enforcement can also lead to searches of our person and our vehicle and our home. Upon discovery of any sort of marijuana concentrate, tickets aren’t an option any more. Sure, up to 100 grams of marijuana flower gets you that minor misdemeanor, but over 5 grams of solid concentrate or 1 gram of liquid extract is a misdemeanor and twice those amounts are a felony. That’s arrest and prison time from a month to a year and the “drug criminal” record to affect our job, education, and housing prospects for life.

So I guess it just depends on what offends you more, Mr. Drum – crony capitalism at the marijuana production level (but not the processing or retail level)… or 18,000 tickets and arrests for marijuana next year and every year beyond that are 4 times more likely to affect black people?

What offends you more – the idea that rich people can use their money to benefit politically… or that a mother who acquires 2 grams of cannabis oil to treat her epileptic child’s 1,000 seizures a day will remain a felon in Ohio?

What offends you more – the imposition of a grow “monopoly” (where “mono” = “ten”)… or the subversion of the initiative process by a legislature that is tricking you into requiring two successful majority votes the next time you try to legalize marijuana?

What offends you more – rich people stepping up to legalize marijuana for profit when in forty-five years before and the next five years hence, nobody else would or will be able to step up to do it… or letting cops continue to mess with cannabis consumers’ liberty and handing the opponents of legalization a perfect victory talking point in the lead-up to possibly six states voting on legalization in 2016?

That talking point will be about how the marijuana legalization movement, which talks a lot about “ending mass incarceration of pot smokers” or “how prohibition decimates black families” or “how the poor desperate patients can’t wait for life-saving medicine”, threw them all under the bus when so-called “activists” were left out of making a profit on Big Tobacco 2.0. (I’ve been following Kevin Sabet so long I can write his press releases for him. This will be his favorite talking point since I coined “Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed” to mock him and he ran with it.)

It’s funny to me how offended everyone is by this “monopoly” of ten pre-owned grow sites with dozens of sub-leasing growers and over 1,000 independent retailers of marijuana in 2015, but weren’t mobilized to act when Ohio created an actual monopoly of one company owning four constitutionally approved casinos. Nobody seemed to be in any hurry to kill constitutional monopolies in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, but once someone finally got marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2015, the legislature couldn’t move fast enough to kill monopolies.

Oh, but not the casino monopoly. Nothing about issue 2 kills that golden goose. That monopoly can stay.

Finally, Kevin Drum doesn’t understand that we cannabis consumers have been purchasing marijuana from a monopoly all our lives – the dealer. Prohibition makes it difficult to find “the guy” who is selling. The inherent criminal risk allows him to jack up the price to absurdly inflated levels and treat his customers with disprespect. We’ve had to wait hours in parking lots for deliveries of short-weighted, inferior product. We’ve had to spend $300 an ounce on something we know it cost “the guy” $25 to grow.

You’d have us reject up to 1,159 independent pot shops selling dozens of quality, tested, pure strains of cannabis flower and newly-legalized concentrates, where we can get what we want during regular business hours with just a short retail interaction in a secure, well-lit, adults-only store, because the commercial grow model offends your non-toking economic senibilities?

Sorry, Kevin Drum, it’s No on Issue 2, Yes on Issue 3 for any cannabis consumer who’s offended by being treated like a criminal by the state and could give less than four-fifths of a flea’s fart whether “the guy” who’s been price-gouging us for decades can’t get rich in the legal marijuana grow game.

Russ Belville

"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.