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.
ResponsibleOhio, the group behind the cannabis legalization measure in Ohio that has been scrutinized for creating a closed market for cannabis production in the Buckeye State, has launched a new campaign strategy which features a caped superhero-esque cannabis-flower mascot named Buddie.
According to Faith Oltman, ResponsibleOhio spokesperson:
“Buddie is going to college campuses only to promote ‘Buddie’s 21 and Up Club’ and engage millennial voters in the process in a new, creative and exciting way.”
Buddie made his debut appearance for the ‘Green a Rush Bus Tour’ on August 25 at the University of Toledo.
While this may be a smart strategy, considering that young voters are usually unaccounted for at the ballot box, Buddie’s appearance has already sparked less than positive feedback.
“This is at best, irresponsible. The superhero theme clearly appeals to a younger crowd. A shameless attempt to entice young people,”
stated Jen Detwiler of Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies.
President of the Ohio Children’s Hospitals Association, Nick Lashutka, agrees with Detwiler. Lashutka, also a member of Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, reported that he was “shocked that they would take what appears to be a super hero-type character to advocate for passage of Issue 3.” Lashutka continued,
“This could be explicitly appealing to kids. We think they should cease and desist using this character.”
Despite the opposition, Oltman says ResponsibleOhio plans to move forward with the college tour, and ensures that the organization is “being very careful about where Buddie’s going and who he’s talking to.”
“This is ‘Buddie’s 21 and Up Club.’ He’s not going to be around kids.”
Oltman explained. She did not mention how Buddie would be kept away from students on campus between the ages of 18 and 20.
photo credit: ResponsibleOhio
Ohio’s Secretary of State announced Wednesday that ResponsibleOhio’s ballot measure to legalize recreational and medical cannabis will have a spot on the November general election ballot. A second ballot measure designed to undermine the group’s effort will be on the November ballot as well, setting up a possible legal showdown between ResponsibleOhio and lawmakers who say the group is trying to enshrine a cannabis oligopoly in the state constitution.
To be certain, opponents of ResponsibleOhio are correct to cry foul over the group’s tactics and motives. ResponsibleOhio is indisputably a group of private investors who stand to make loads of money if their amendment to Ohio’s constitution is passed. That is because the law, as the group drafted it, would require all commercial and medical cannabis in Ohio to be grown on just 10 plots of land—all of them owned or optioned by ResponsibleOhio investors. The group’s stakeholders include a former boy-band member, current and ex-professional athletes, a fashion designer and two descendants of a former U.S. president.
By spending $2.5 million, ResponsibleOhio managed to gather 320,267 signatures, more than enough to land a spot on the November ballot. The group plans to follow up the roughly $8 per signature it has already spent with an additional $20 million capital investment to make sure its cannabis plan becomes the law of the land for Ohio’s 11.6 million residents.
ResponsibleOhio cites the many benefits to legalization, including saving money on law enforcement efforts against cannabis while crippling the black market and preventing the imprisonment of cannabis users. Only hardline anti-cannabis advocates would dispute such benefits are likely to happen if the law is passed. Opponents of the plan, however, who include cannabis advocates as well as lawmakers, are alarmed that the new cannabis economy would be under the thumb of the owners of the 10 designated grow sites. They say the legalization effort being pushed by ResponsibleOhio is simply a ploy to establish an oligopoly with a constitutional right to control cannabis in Ohio.
To prevent that from happening, lawmakers have added their own measure to the November ballot. The proposed statute would prohibit language in the state constitution that grants “monopoly, oligopoly or cartel” powers to any group or individual, which could be a deathblow to ResponsibleOhio’s efforts. This response from lawmakers suggests that intentions are not to block legalization in general, but to prevent this measure specifically. It is unclear whether ResponsibleOhio will continue to push for cannabis law reform if the language that designates their landholdings as the sole growing spaces in Ohio were to be deemed unconstitutional.
A second, albeit seemingly less serious threat to ResponsibleOhio is coming from cannabis advocates. John Pardee, president of Ohio Rights Group, says of the opposition to ResponsibleOhio among cannabis proponents,
“It’s a battle for the heart and soul of this new economy. The wealthy are starting to see this new market and step on it right out of the crib.”
Pardee’s organization had planned to launch a campaign to put a legalization measure on the 2016 ballot, but is now gathering signatures for the 2015 ballot in an attempt to provide voters with an alternative future for cannabis business in the state.
In the event the ResponsibleOhio measure is the only pro-cannabis amendment on the November ballot, voters will have to decide whether they are willing to swallow the bitter pill of oligopoly in the cannabis market in order to finally have access to legal marijuana. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORMAL), the best known of all cannabis advocacy groups in the U.S., has said it is willing to support ResponsibleOhio if its plan turns out to be the only legalization option on the ballot in the strategically important state. NORML’s support will not be overly enthusiastic, however, as it recognizes that longtime cannabis supporters will be pushed aside by profiteers.
“Those people … have invested their lives and taken great risks to get us to where we are today. We would like the market to be open to small- and mid-sized growers, not just the big guys,”
Keith Stroup, an attorney for NORML, said of allies who will be squeezed out of the market by ResponsibleOhio.
On Friday the Ohio Attorney General’s Office certified a petition proposed to recreationally legalize marijuana in the Buckeye state.
The petition titled, “Marijuana Legalization Amendment” was the second petition submitted by Responsible Ohio – containing all necessary requirements, including 1,000 validated signatures from registered Ohio voters and a ‘fair and truthful’ summary of the amendment being proposed.
“Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred,… I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law,” Ohio Attorney Mike General DeWine stated in a letter to Responsible Ohio.
There is still quite the battle for Ohioans fighting to end marijuana prohibition. The Attorney General’s office will soon rule weather the bill addresses one or multiple issues.
Responsible Ohio must collect signatures for each issue from registered voters in each of 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.
Total signatures collected statewide must also equal 10 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.
Yesterday Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a the ResponsibleOhio bill proposal that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. ResponsibleOhio is the political action committee consisting of NBA legend Oscar Robertson and other Ohio elite that was scrutinized for proposing an amendment that would limit who could enter the industry by allowing only ten cannabis cultivators for the entire state.
This proposal for legalized marijuana in Ohio looks much different than Colorado or Washington’s. There would be a total of 10 cultivation sites, which have been promised to financial donors of the campaign. Tax revenue collected from transactions at all levels of the supply chain would be given to local governments.
Attorney General DeWine sent ResponsibleOhio a summary letter detailing where the proposal fell short.
- It doesn’t mention that the proposed amendment allows adults over age 21 to share specified amounts of marijuana.
- It does not “accurately reflect the manner in which proposed taxes would be distributed.”
Additionally, the attorney general cited one of the cultivation facility locations as a potential violation of the amendment’s own restrictions on acceptable growing sites. The bill language clearly states that grow sites, retail stores, & manufacturing facilities must be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, libraries, houses of worship, and day cares.
The rejection of the proposal did not come as a surprise to many, including ResponsibleOhio who recently announced that they already had plans to submit a new proposal which would include topics that were missed in the first one. The new proposal allows for home cultivation for adults 21 and older. They would be permitted to grow up to 4 mature plants for personal use with a state approved license. The new proposal also eliminates the questionable cultivation center location.
If the new proposal is accepted by Attorney General DeWine and approved as a single ballot issue by the Ohio Ballot Board, ResponsibleOhio must still collect a minimum of 305,591 registered voter signatures in order to place it on the November ballot. Signatures must be collected and submitted no later than July 1, 2015.