Even With Problematic Language, Marijuana Legalization Should Be Passed In Ohio

created image for Issue 3 in Ohio 2015

With the election not far away, I needed to take a look at the various state issues on the ballot in November. The two getting the most press is State Issue 2 and 3. Issue 3 would legalize marijuana in Ohio while setting up a limited number of licensed growers. Issue 2, if passed, could invalidate marijuana legalization even if Issue 3 passed. After looking at the ballot language of both issues, Issue 2 needs to fail and even with the problematic language, Issue 3 should be passed.

Let’s look at the one problem with Issue 3 even some who support marijuana legalization have a beef with:

Endow exclusive rights for commercial marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction to self-designated landowners who own ten predetermined parcels of land in Butler, Clermont, Franklin, Hamilton, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Delaware, Stark, and Summit Counties. One additional location may be allowed for in four years only if existing facilities cannot meet consumer demand.

Issue 3 Ballot Language

Many against the issue have pointed out it creates a “monopoly” that benefits only a few wealthy investors. Some who support marijuana legalization want people to be able to grow as much as they want, when they want, and for other people who want to sell marijuana to be able to do so.

The system proposed would be closer to how the state regulates the gambling casinos. The website Ballotpedia wrote:

The textbooks define monopoly as a system in which a single firm dominates a market without any form of substantial competition. The system that Issue 3 establishes features 10 different firms, with the possibility of an 11th in the future, all seemingly in competition with one another. This does not constitute a monopoly. We suggest that a more accurate term is oligopoly, a system where a few firms are in limited competition with one another and entry into the market is also limited and difficult.

Does a ballot measure in Ohio create a marijuana monopoly?

While the complaint about limited growers allowed is a valid point, I don’t see it as something that would cause me to give up on marijuana legalization. Just like I don’t believe the fears of children running around eating pot brownies is as big a problem as claimed. It’s possible but not likely.

Another area more conservative opponents have with Issue 3 involves taxes:

Create a special tax rate limited to 15% on gross revenue of each marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction facility and marijuana product manufacturing facility and a special tax rate limited to 5% on gross revenue of each retail marijuana store. Revenues from the tax go to a municipal and township government fund, a strong county fund, and the marijuana control commission fund.

While there is a flat tax stated in the amendment, it is also clear in the detailed language that the growing facilities would be required to pay all other applicable taxes a regular commercial enterprise would pay. The growers are also required to allow worker unionization and have to pay prevailing wages.

The amendment prevents any future attempts by the legislature to drive the growers out of business through punitive regulations (extra taxes or zoning laws for example) like has happened to adult book stores and abortion clinics. 

It also keeps in place current laws against driving while impaired from marijuana and doesn’t block employers from prohibiting the use of marijuana while on the job. This is how liquor and smoking are handled currently so it wouldn’t be unique or unfair.

The amendment doesn’t allow growers to sell directly to the consumer. Retail stores have to be licensed much like the state requires for the sale of liquor and just like liquor options today, a neighborhood, where a marijuana retailer wants to locate, would have to vote to approve the new store.

I think the overall good of Issue 3 overcomes the minor problem of the limited growers allowed and questions about taxes.

Issue 2 I am not so keen on.

The Initiated Monopolies Amendment would require the Ohio Ballot Board to determine whether an initiative would create an economic monopoly or special privilege for any nonpublic entity, including individuals, corporations and organizations. If the Ohio Ballot Board determines an initiative would create an economic monopoly or special privilege, then the board shall provide two separate ballot questions. The first question would ask, “Shall the petitioner, in violation of division (B)(1) of Section 1e of Article II of the Ohio Constitution, be authorized to initiate a constitutional amendment that grants or creates a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel, specifies or determines a tax rate, or confers a commercial interest, commercial right, or commercial license that is not available to other similarly situated persons?” The second question would be the ballot initiative. If both questions are approved, then the amendment would take effect. If only one question is approved, then the amendment would be defeated.

Ohio Initiated Monopolies Amendment, Issue 2 (2015)

The first problem is this issue was put on the ballot by the Ohio legislature as a direct attack on marijuana legalization. Talk about petulant children…

The second problem is messing with the citizen initiative process by adding an extra step for proponents to overcome. That is simply not fair.

I just don’t trust a legislature that has used unethical against things they don’t like like abortion clinics. Issue 2 is not good for Ohio.

After reading the summaries and the detailed language I am comfortable in voting to approve Issue 3 and voting against Issue 2.