Ohio Voters Just Say No to Marijuana Legalization

It seems state voters are more frequently giving the green light for medical, if not recreational, marijuana use. As of now, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, while Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have legalized the recreational use and growth of cannabis. Ohio was primed to follow suit, but the results of the vote: All 88 counties voted against Issue 3.

As surprising as this may appear, it was less the concern of legalization, and more about a concern for monopolies of the Ohio legal marijuana industry. The legislation presented was backed by the organization ResponsibleOhio. ResponsibleOhio framed the process of legalization as an oligopolistic industry where only a few produce and profit from marijuana. The three main propositions of Issue 3 include: the legalization of both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana in Ohio for adults 21 and older; allowance of adults to grow up to four plants for personal use; and the limitation of the number of entities that can grow marijuana for legal sale to ten pre-designated groups and sites.

"You can get marijuana delivered to your door faster than you can a pizza," says Ian James, the Executive Director of ResponsibleOhio, "So we need to regulate, test, and tax marijuana." On the other hand, the limitation of sales takes a change that has the potential to boost the state economy, and instead shifts profits into those pre-designated groups. These groups, a few of which funded $2 million each to put forward Issue 3, claim their profit will become the profit of many-those who get jobs in the market. But is it enough? This kind of amendment to the constitution exhibits a profiteering that needs to be avoided if legalization is to be passed throughout the states. Even the group NORML agreed, in regards to the monopoly proposed by Issue 3:

"It was, as the saying goes, 'a bitter pill to swallow,' and the board wanted to make it clear we do not consider the Ohio proposal the best model for other states to follow," read the board's endorsement. "There are far better ways to legalize marijuana."

Surveys confirmed that most Ohioans actually supported legalization-but that the platform on which is was presented was not the most effective model for legalization, and turned supporting citizens against Issue 3. Another reason for the failure of Issue 3 could be found in the low voter turnout in Ohio's bigger cities. However, the failure of legalization in this instance does not mean the momentum of the legalization movement is slowing; it is quite likely the issue will be on Ohio's ballot once again in the next year.

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