On election day, Ohio voters rejected the push for legal recreational marijuana, also known as Issue 3 or the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The proposal was shot down by a landslide, with an almost 2-to-1 defeat.
The proposal would have legalized the use and sale of recreational cannabis in Ohio, but the ballot language established only ten licenses which would have exclusive commercial rights to the plants’ production and sales. Voting “no” left current laws unchanged — possession and use of marijuana remains illegal in the Buckeye State.
Although Issue 3 was defeated, the cannabis debate is not over in Ohio. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberg, R-Clarksville and other state lawmakers who have previously been opposed to cannabis policy reform are now reconsidering the medicinal use of cannabis after learning more about the plants’ therapeutic uses and hearing from constituents.
“After going through this process, myself and many of my colleagues realize there’s tremendous support for medical marijuana and something we should have a bigger discussion about. We obviously want to help the parents with children that are ill and the elderly that are suffering,”
said Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, a leader in the House.
This reconsideration by lawmakers comes as no surprise, as the results of the latest Quinnipiac poll revealed that a super majority of Ohio voters believe the use of medical marijuana should be legal. 90 percent of participants from Ohio responded that they supported the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes. In the same poll, voters from Florida and Pennsylvania also reported 90 percent approval for medical marijuana.
Notably, the rejection of Issue 3 by voters does not appear to be a sign that Ohio or any other state is not ready for cannabis policy reform. Rather, it is reported that voters just recognized that Issue 3 did not provide residents with a free market, and may not have been the best model to adopt. Either way, Ohioans are definitely ready for medicinal cannabis.
If the newest legislation introduced to the United States Senate by Sen. Bernie Sanders and the results of the most recent Gallup poll are any inclination, the majority of American people are ready for cannabis policy reform on a much larger scale. Sanders introduced legislation to remove cannabis from federal scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal prohibition entirely.
An organization called Ohio Rights Group spent last year advocating for legalized medical marijuana in the state of Ohio. However, the group failed to collect the 385,000 signatures needed to put the medical marijuana amendment, Ohio Cannabis Rights Act, on the 2014 ballot. Now, a different group going by the name Responsible Ohio announced a campaign to put a full legalization amendment on the 2015 ballot.
The full legalization movement would allow for only 10 licenses to cultivate the marijuana, and an anonymous source reportedly told Cleveland.com that the group already has the millions in funding needed to collect enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot next year. The funding is coming from the 10 property owners who would reserve exclusive rights to the cultivation of the plant, thus reserving exclusive rights to much of the legal marijuana profits.
The Responsible Ohio campaign is keeping most information secret at this time, but the group’s spokesperson, Lydia Bolander, did release the statement,
“Marijuana for medical and personal use should be a choice made by adults 21 and older in this state. We are going to end this failed prohibition. Legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use means increased safety because we will regulate, tax and treat marijuana like alcohol. We will smother the black market and use the taxes generated to help local communities provide vital public services.”
The amendment proposed by Responsible Ohio would set-up a Marijuana Control Commission to regulate the legal system. The group is confident that this would be possible because of the precedent set with a 2009 approval of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which allowed for only four casinos to run in the state.
Few others familiar with marijuana initiatives in the state agree with the hopeful viewpoint of Responsible Ohio. For example, attorney Jon Allison who represents the Drug Free Action Alliance told Dispatch,
“If you put that creators of the Sopranos and Breaking Bad in the same room they couldn’t come up with a plot this far fetched. Perhaps the details will help clarify things but right now it sounds like 10 wannabe drug lords are going to ask Ohio voters to constitutionally protect their cartels and turf.”
The president of the medical marijuana activist organization Ohio Rights Group, John Pardee, also spoke out against this style of an amendment, explaining, “I’m against creating a constitutional monopoly.”
The group has until July of next year to collect enough signatures to place this full legalization initiative on the 2015 ballot.