Voters to decide legalization of marijuana on ballot this fall
By Jenny Jiao, ’16
Issue 3, on the November ballot, is a proposed amendment for the Ohio Constitution. If passed with a majority, the amendment will legalize marijuana through specific provisions.
The amendment includes the legalization of both recreational and medical marijuana in the state of Ohio.
ResponsibleOhio, an interest group comprised of medical professionals, patient advocates and businesspeople, is pushing for marijuana reform. ResponsibleOhio personnel were integral in drafting Issue 3 and are currently leading a campaign to raise attention.
“We believe that using marijuana is a personal choice best left up to adults,” ResponsibleOhio spokesperson Faith Oltman said. “It would provide a highly-regulated, taxed and safe industry. Issue 3 would also provide compassionate care for Ohioans with debilitating illnesses.”
Ohio State University senior and economics major Kris Nunke strongly supports legalization for personal and economic reasons.
“The demand for [marijuana] is increasing,” Nunke said. “We spend billions of dollars trying to keep it illegal when we could legalize it [and] regulate it… We can control quality and take the profits away from drug cartels and put it into the hands of professionals.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU of Ohio) echoes Nunke’s sentiments.
Executive Director of the ACLU of Ohio Christine Link said in a statement that it is imperative for Ohioans to vote for the amendment in order to fix the criminal justice system pertaining to marijuana.
“By voting yes on Issue 3, Ohio voters have a unique opportunity to end an unjust and unworkable policy,” the statement read. “Issue 3 needs to pass on Election Day because its failure may well mean another 10 or 20 years of the same bad policies that cause excessive punishment, a justice system clogged by marijuana prosecutions, lives ruined by prison, and marijuana in the hands of illegal, unregulated, and dangerous cartels.”
However, Upper Arlington Police Officer Jon Rice is opposed to legalization because of safety and health concerns.
“I oppose it because our children and families do not need another vice to get addicted to. I know they say that marijuana is not addictive but I believe that if you have an addictive personality, you can become addicted to anything,” Rice said. “Too often marijuana is laced with other chemicals and drugs that the unsuspecting user inhales. There are so many compounds out there that cause serious health problems.”
In addition to legalizing the usage of marijuana, the amendment proposes the creation of ten Marijuana Growth, Cultivation and Extraction (MGCE) facilities, meaning only these facilities could legally grow marijuana.
Government officials and marijuana activists alike are opposed to the initiative because they believe it monopolizes the marijuana industry.
“Issue 3 is what I would consider to be an oligopoly market structure; which is a few sellers in the market who set the price to maximize profits and participate in collusion,” Nunke said. “Basically these ten grow sites (wholesalers) are not going to compete [but rather] they’re going to set the price well above market value.”
State Auditor David Yost (R) said the initiative was akin to writing a business plan into the constitution.
“If approved by voters, it would write into the Ohio Constitution the location of ten farms that would be allowed to grow marijuana, exclusively… A legalized, properly licensed market should be available to all comers, not just the few with the money to enshrine into the Ohio Constitution a monopoly for themselves,” Yost said, according to The Plain Dealer.
However, ResponsibleOhio spokesperson Faith Oltman said the market structure promotes healthy and safe competition. In addition, Oltman notes the ability for the Commission to add facilities.
“An initial ten growing sites and regulation of growing licenses means a safer Ohio. Starting with a limited number of growers means adequate supervision over the supply of marijuana grown in Ohio and will create the floor of the industry,” Oltman said. “We start with ten competing and regulated growers, and if those ten don’t meet the needs of the state or consumers, the state adds licenses until the demand is met.”
In response to Issue 3, Ohio legislators have approved the Ohio Initiated Monopolies Amendment (Issue 2) through House Joint Resolution 4 of the General Assembly.
Issue 2 prohibits the usage of the amendment process to establish economic interests.
The amendment reads, “Prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status.”
In addition, the amendment specifically targets the Marijuana Legalization Initiative through its language that Issue 2 prohibits “from taking effect any proposed constitutional amendment appearing on the November 3, 2015 General Election ballot that creates a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for the sale, distribution, or other use of any federal Schedule I controlled substance.”
If both issues pass with a majority, it is unclear which would supercede the other. Advocates of Issue 2 claim it would take into effect first, nullifying Issue 3, according to Cleveland.com. However, the Ohio Constitution states the issue with the larger majority would take effect.
If both issues pass, the matter is likely to be settled in courts.
Legalization also impacts the black market. Currently, the U.S. black market for marijuana is estimated to be valued at $141.80 billion, according to Havocscope.com.
ResponsibleOhio has argued for legalization, saying that it will subdue the black market, and students’ access to marijuana.
“There will be strict penalties for anyone who sells marijuana to kids,” Oltman said. “Which isn’t the case now because drug dealers are selling to kids and aren’t IDing them.”
Oltman continues to explain the reasoning behind ResponsibleOhio’s stance.
“When we legalize marijuana, prices will be very competitive with the black market. This will smother the black market and severely limit teens’ access to marijuana,” Oltman said. “Like alcohol, marijuana use will be a personal choice students can make when they’re 21.”
UA Police Officer Jon Rice believes there may be some validity to ResponsibleOhio’s argument, but students will continue to buy illegally, maintaining the black market.
“The argument that marijuana can be grown locally in a controlled environment is much safer may be a little true, but the bottom line it’s still cheaper to buy it on the black market,” Rice said. “The people that are using it now will continue to use and still buy it off the black market.”
Junior Nate Hervey agrees with Rice about the black market.
“I believe that much like alcohol, teens will buy [marijuana] with fake IDs or through people over the age of 21,” Hervey said. “If marijuana is available illegally, people will [continue to] buy it.”
In the end, the success or failure of Issue 3 will be decided on Nov. 3 by voters all across Ohio.