Pro-Cannabis Groups See Bright Side of Ohio Loss
The resounding failure of an Ohio ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana in the state was not seen as a failure for legalization as a whole by cannabis industry groups but, rather, as a critique of the ballot measure's strategy for commercializing the drug. The measure would have allowed only a handful of people to legally sell and produce marijuana.
The resounding failure of an Ohio ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana in the state was not seen as a failure for legalization as a whole by cannabis industry groups but, rather, as a critique of the ballot measure’s strategy for commercializing the drug. The measure would have allowed only a handful of people to legally sell and produce marijuana.
Don’t let the emphatic “no” vote on Ohio’s Issue 3 fool you, advocates say: The ballot measure’s failure had a lot to do with the details.
The measure would have allowed for the commercialization of marijuana, but in a way that would have financially benefited just a handful of producers who own pot farms. (One of them, you might have heard, is former boy-band icon Nick Lachey, and another was retired NBA great Oscar Robertson.) The measure was so controversial for the business precedent it set that opponents created a competing measure, Issue 2, that would have invalidated the monopolistic approach taken by Issue 3 advocates.
Issue 2 passed; Issue 3 got crushed, with 65 percent of voters against it.
And it’s that side controversy that legalization advocates—including the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)—are pointing to in their comments on the failure of Issue 3.
“The people of Ohio have understandably rejected a deeply flawed, monopolistic approach to marijuana reform that failed to garner broad support from advocates or industry leaders,” NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith said in a statement. “This debate has shown that there is a strong base of support for legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana. Now the foundation has been laid for a potential 2016 effort that would put forward a more common-sense initiative and have a major impact on the presidential conversation in the process.”
The amendment to the Ohio state constitution that Issue 3 would have created had some elements that advocates for legalization have encouraged elsewhere, including the ability for those older than 21 to possess a limited amount of cannabis for personal use, the ability to receive a license to produce up to 8 ounces of cannabis, and rules that would have effectively legalized medical cannabis use.
But the addition of the commercialization rules—and the fact that the campaign was specifically being pushed by commercial interests that donated $4 million to the campaign—made the ballot measure something of a poison pill for cannabis advocates. Others were concerned about the effort’s marketing—particularly a mascot named Buddie that hewed too close to Joe Camel for some.
“I don’t see the defeat of Issue 3 slowing the national momentum for ending marijuana prohibition,” DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann said in a statement. “Voters, including those who would like to see marijuana legally regulated and taxed, were clearly turned off by the oligopoly provision.”