I have great friends and colleagues on both sides of Ohio’s Issue 3 marijuana legalization measure, sponsored by ResponsibleOhio. Everyone in the cannabis movement that I have talked to doesn’t support placing a limit of 10 marijuana grow sites in the Ohio Constitution. Limiting the ability for most cannabis growers to enter the regulated system defeats some of the major reasons for legalizing marijuana and lining the pockets of a handful of rich businesses who get to largely control the marijuana market doesn’t really sit well with anyone.
However, I, and most vocally, fellow Marijuana Politics’ blogger, Russ Belville, have stuck to the proposition that any measure better than prohibition should be supported. If a measure has flaws, advocates can work to correct those flaws, but you never know for certain when you can get a chance to vote on legalization again. Russ and I are from conservative states and have lived under regimes where any amount of marijuana could lead to an arrest and some time in jail, in addition to place you on probation and ruin your educational and employment opportunities. Russ has spent a great amount of time and energy taking to task national organizations for their silence on Issue 3 and he has been willing to debate many opponents of the measure.
I must admit that I don’t have the patience to debate people on the interwebs and the oligopoly of growers created by Issue 3 have left me as someone who has been willing to state that I would vote for the measure if I lived in Ohio, but unwilling to put much effort into promoting the measure. The unseemly oligopoly provision may be countered by Ohio Issue 2. My sincere hope is that both measures pass and the courts rule that legalization shall prevail, but that Ohio must allow for more than just 10 grow sites.
Russ Belville, one of the hardest working cannabis activists in the world, has swayed some Ohio voters to change their vote (according to their online comments) and has gotten NORML‘s founder and current Legal Counsel, Keith Stroup, to post a blog noting the fact that Issue 3 is worth supporting. From NORML:
Issue 3 in Ohio should be endorsed by all who favor legalization, even with its imperfections. As the NORML board of directors concluded when we endorsed the Ohio proposal, unless the current proposal in Ohio is approved, it will likely be five years or more (perhaps far longer) before marijuana will be legalized in Ohio. Under their current laws, roughly 12,000 Ohioans are arrested on marijuana charges each year. Does anyone really believe we should sit by waiting for a more acceptable version of legalization to magically appear, while another 60,000 to 100,000 smokers are arrested in Ohio?
In addition, just as the victories in Washington and Colorado were especially significant because they were the first, and opened the door for serious consideration in additional states, it would be an enormous step forward politically to adopt full legalization in Ohio — a large, conservative midwestern state. And it would suddenly put full legalization on the table for serious consideration by many other similarly situated states.
It’s time to legalize in Ohio.
Recent polls show that Issue 3 has a good chance of passage this year. One poll has Issue 3 at 56%, while another shows support at 53%. The good polling numbers are surprising many who feared that an off-year election would be difficult for a marijuana legalization measure as young people, the biggest supporters of legalization, are more likely to sit out off-year votes. Cannabis legalization may just come to the Midwest in 2015, having a ripple effect across the nation and greatly influencing the presidential race as Ohio is such an important swing state, that just may decide who our next president is.
I respect many people on both sides of the issue, but hope that everyone maintains a cordial (as much as possible) relationship as cannabis law reformers on both sides of the issue will need each other in the years ahead in Ohio, whether Issue 3 wins or loses. Advocates should stick to the issues and not get personal. Following legalization, a whole host of issues, from employment rights to custody battles, must be dealt with and we need to understand that prohibitionists will seek to exploit any divisions to perpetuate the failed War on Marijuana in Ohio and beyond.