Ohio to Vote on Marijuana Legalization this November


The ResponsibleOhio marijuana legalization measure has been a controversial one within the cannabis law reform community, both in Ohio and across the country, and the controversy isn’t over as ResponsibleOhio has collected the requisite number of signatures to qualify for the November 2015 ballot. Many advocates are concerned about the fact that the 2015 ballot measure puts the cultivation of cannabis in the hands of just 10 wealthy backers. The concerns regarding this oligopoly even galvanized the Ohio Legislature that sent a measure to the 2015 ballot giving voters a chance to deny business interests from writing themselves into the Ohio Constitution (it should be noted that lawmakers didn’t do the same for casinos a few years back). I was alerted of the marijuana measure making the ballot by the Center for Public Integrity:

The initiative would change Ohio’s constitution to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana use and also give the exclusive right to grow and sell wholesale pot to 10 farms, all of which are owned by the ballot measure’s financial backers.

But the measure, which critics say amounts to a “marijuana oligopoly,” won’t be alone on the ballot. Opponents in the Ohio legislature sent a competing amendment to voters that would outlaw constitutional changes that benefit limited economic interest groups, like those behind the marijuana proposal.

“Hopefully the people of Ohio will decide to protect the clean constitution,” said state auditor Dave Yost, a critic of the marijuana measure. “The door remains open for cannabis legalization by petition by initiative. What we won’t have is this current system that’s poorly thought out and favors a few rich investors.”

(The Center for Public Integrity does great work and the whole piece is certainly worth reading.)

I, for one, hate it when the cannabis community fights amongst itself, but this can’t be avoided in this campaign. The entire campaign will be interesting as will be the legal battle if both the ResponsibleOhio measure and the proposed amendment preventing constitutional changes that benefit a particular economic interest both pass; my hope would be that the Ohio Supreme Court would rule that all of the legalization and regulatory measures remain, but that Ohio must open up cultivation licenses to more qualified applicants. I am on record as supporting any measure that results in fewer arrests and improves the status quo of prohibition; laws and amendments can always be improved. However, I understand that reasonable minds can disagree, but I just urge that all sides involve debate respectfully and keep on topic; there are too few of us fighting to end cannabis prohibition and while we may differ on certain policies, we need each other in the end.

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.