By Brian Bahouth
On Tuesday, November 3 of this year Ohio voters will consider a cannabis legalization amendment put forward by the group ResponsibleOhio (RO). The proposed constitutional amendment would establish a Marijuana Control Division and permit retail sales and various processing. The plan would allow adult home cultivation and public possession and a medical marijuana program; but the amendment would also enshrine a provision in the state constitution that would limit the number of commercial cannabis grow licenses to ten mega-farms for the entire state of Ohio, and investors funding the ResponsibleOhio campaign would own those sites.
Despite the dogged efforts of stalwart cannabis activists over years, grass-roots legalization initiatives have failed to come before Ohio voters for lack of the resources needed to gather the requisite number of valid signatures to place the question on the ballot, and the opulent ways and means of the ResponsibleOhio campaign have galled veteran advocates in the state.
ResponsibleOhio investors hired a signature collection firm that ultimately submitted more than enough signatures to satisfy Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Mr. Husted then authored and issued the title and short description of “Issue 3” last week:
“Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes”
On the same day Secretary Husted approved an anti-monopoly amendment for the 2015 ballot, Issue 2:
“Anti-monopoly amendment; protects the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit”
ResponsibleOhio has filed legal action with the state Supreme Court to have the language changed, but should both amendments 2 and 3 pass this fall, Issue 2 might well prohibit Issue 3 from taking effect, and more, there is a renewed effort to place a cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot in 2016.
The group Ohioans to End Prohibition (OTEP) is one such a proposal that is in many ways a response to the RO measure and in telling contrast takes an innovative free market approach to participation in the legal industry. Organizers contend an inclusive licensing system would help undermine illegal markets, and the plan is well thought out and based in a detailed analysis of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska’s legalization initiatives, but if the RO plan should pass this fall, and the OTEP plan gets on the ballot and passes in 2016, there is uncertainty as to how one cannabis amendment would affect another already in the constitution …
The Ohio state and national Green Parties have always supported the legalization of cannabis, so in this complex electoral landscape, Political Director of the Ohio Green Party, Sean Nestor, tells Brian Bahouth why his party does not support the ResponsibleOhio amemndment …