Ohio’s Message About Legalization

Is Ohio ready for Legalization?

The keyword when discussing Responsible Ohio’s notorious Issue 3, which was rejected this November, is Greed. When asking those who both opposed and supported the bill why this legislation did not pass, Greed is their answer. This year marked a milestone for the state of Ohio as we finally saw legislation to end prohibition of Marijuana on our ballot, and the issue gained nationwide celebrity as people all over the country watched to see how this election day would play out. Proposition 3 made it onto the ballot by way of an intense campaign on behalf of its investors, who poured millions of dollars into seeing the bill actualized. Every stop was pulled out during the petitioning period all the way up to voting day, from (sometimes false) advertising to employing “Buddy” the pot mascot. Yet despite all of Responsible Ohio’s efforts, Ohioans still rejected issue 3.

Many people believe, rightly so, that the bill’s wording would create a monopoly in the cannabis industry that would give all the profiting power to those same investors. Only ten facilities, run by the investors, including big names like former boy-band 98 degrees’ Nick Lachey and former Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive end Frostee Rucker, would have had exclusive rights to commercial production of cannabis in the state. This included production of all marijuana infused products, edibles, concentrates, sprays, ointments and tinctures. It was this part of the amendment that led the Ohio General Assembly to introduce the competing Issue 2 to the ballots – an amendment that would prevent such monopolies from coming to fruition.

Other aspects of Issue 3 included the proposed creation of an Ohio Marijuana Control Commission, which would have regulated cannabis production at both the industrial and homegrow levels, content of marijuana products, retail sales and taxation, and approval of research. The bill would have allowed for home-grows on a small scale, and only with an approved state license. Citizens 21 years of age or older interested in growing in the privacy of their home would be regulated by the state and allowed to grow up to eight ounces of “usable” marijuana plus four flowering plants. Persons 21 or older would legally be allowed to “purchase, possess, transport, use, and share up to 1 ounce” of recreational marijuana. The bill covered everything from appropriating funds for research, applicable taxations, locations and zoning for retail stores, exceptions (ie; age exemptions) for patients using marijuana for the treatment of “debilitating” medical ailments, and distribution of legislative powers between state and local officials and the Marijuana Control Commission.

The bill was rather thorough, and many of its supporters claimed it was this aspect of the amendment that would provide Ohio with a safe and well-controlled cannabis industry. However, many veteran advocates for liberal Marijuana laws were swift to reject the proposition. There were simply too many restrictions written in for this to be a working plan that would benefit average citizens and marijuana users and keep Drug War “POW”s out of jail for marijuana related offenses. Supporters and Opposers of Issue 3 alike would agree that it is high time the people who are truly in need of medical marijuana be granted access. Furthermore, with respect to the recent changes in Colorado and Washington, Ohioans are well aware of the economical benefits that stand to be gained from legalizing and welcoming the cannabis industry. But it’s right to question how much this amendment would have benefited medical patients and the economy. Michael Revercomb-Hickman, one of 4 founders of the central ohio NORML chapter, had this to say;

“Issue 3 was written less with patients and consumers and more with the grow oligarchy in mind. A possession limit in public of one ounce means constantly going back to stores if you are a buyer. Allowing 4 plants plus “unlimited” clones but only allowing 8 ozs isn’t gonna allow for any kind of long term medicine creation which means more going to stores. Cannabis is a social issue first not an investment opportunity.”

It is worth the scrutiny to take into account that if issue 3 HAD passed, Ohio would have been the first state to legalize industrial/recreational cannabis BEFORE, or in conjunction with, medical. And in regards to growing at home for personal or medical use, Revercomb-Hickman went on:

“Saying you support the cannabis movement but being willing to throw the growers under the bus is like saying ‘I support the housing industry but f**k people who build houses’ – It’s a plant, from an industry perspective the growers are the MOST important part. Without large quantities of high quality product and a vast array of strains Ohio’s market would have been garbage. With federal legalization comes the national market and we should be able to compete. A grow oligarchy would have made Ohio the capital of crappy mid-grade pot that people use to fill blunts with when they cant afford high-grade cannabis.”

During a discussion I was having on this very topic over facebook, one Ohio woman claimed that greedy citizens who wanted to profit instead of the investors, were the people who voted this bill down. She stated that “Everybody with a joint wanted to grow and make a profit themselves”.

While I think that’s a gross misrepresentation of the voting class, why should even misled and overly-zealous stoners be denied this right? Was it individual greed that caused voters to reject this bill, or simply the desire for a free market and a disdain for corporate greed? According to Mary Smith, president of Northwest Ohio NORML, “It not only closed our market, but it closed our borders. If it wasn’t created by their system, we were not going to have access to it…”

That is something we simply cannot accept during the legalization process, and neither should any other state. Another big complaint from Issue 3 supporters is the waiting Ohio would now have to face for another opportunity such as this to come along. One anonymous facebooker said “Good job Ohio, you ruined the only chance you had”; But I can say with confidence that this counter-productive sentiment is simply erroneous negativity on the part of disappointed voters. There is already an initiative being worked out for this upcoming year: Legalize Ohio 2016. Mr.Revercomb-Hickman, who has also worked with “every canna group and initiative in Ohio over the last 8 years including the OATA, the OMCA, the OCRA, the EOCPA and now the CCA,” as well as being the only individual on the boards for both ORG and Ohio NORML at the same time, had this to say when I asked about LO2016:

“I love LegalizeOhio2016, but to be honest I’m a little biased because I’m one of it’s co authors alongside Jacob Wagner who is the main author and Sri Kavuru the other co author. I believe LO2016 and the CCA are an amazing movement which is why I choose to support them over Responsible Ohio. They have a plan that actually leads us towards that main goal – ‘No one should go to prison over a plant’ – only thing I care about.”

Seems like a good mantra to me, and I know many other longtime advocates who would agree. Personally, I have to wonder how man Ohioans actually read the Issue 3 in its entirety. I can remember during the petitioning period, many of the petitioners themselves were clueless when I inquired about the specifics of home cultivation and licensing for industrial or retail opportunities. Most of the petitioners I came across were pulling their numbers by calling out to passers by asking if they were ready to “legalize” marijuana, without ever going into the specifics of the issue, and people were signing right and left. Of course it seems most average citizens in Ohio DO want to see an end to prohibition, but sometimes jumping on the first visible opportunity isn’t always the best idea, as we may have discovered in the long-run, had Issue 3 passed. For now, speaking as an Ohio resident, I think we can do better, and I’m glad issue 3 was rejected.

About Moni (1 Articles)
Christian, University of Toledo Graduate, Activist, and advocate for ending prohibition of marijuana nation-wide. Michigan born, Minnesota raised, currently residing in Ohio.
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