(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Ohio voters rejected a ballot proposal on Tuesday that would have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical use. The measure was defeated by nearly 2 to 1, according to current projections.
The rejection, however, may have less to do with Ohioans attitudes about marijuana than one might think.
The proposal, known as Issue 3, allowed adults 21 and older to use, purchase, and grow certain amounts of marijuana and established a regulatory and taxation scheme to handle the legalization.
Embedded in the proposal, however, was a stipulation that would have given "exclusive rights" for commercial marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction to 10 predetermined parcels of land.
The various owners of those land parcels were the proponents and funders of the initiative, known as Responsible Ohio. The group spent more than $12 million on ads, and The New York Times reports that its members spent $25 million on the campaign in total.
The problems voters may have had with Issue 3 were best summed up by Case Western University School of Law professor Jonathan Adler in The Washington Post:
Issue 3 would create a marijuana "monopoly" (actually, an oligopoly) consisting of 10 producers who would have their exclusive rights to engage in the commercial production of marijuana enshrined in the state constitution. The campaign in support of Issue 3 — so-called Responsible Ohio — is predictably supported by those who would hold these exclusive rights. This is crony capitalism at its worst.
The monopolistic design of the initiative was part of the campaign from the start, according to The New York Times. Ian James, a political consultant who helped construct the campaign, found 10 investment groups willing to put up $2 million each to finance the campaign for the marijuana-legalization amendment.
The investment groups would in exchange receive exclusive rights to grow marijuana on 10 parcels of land owned or optioned by the investors.
NORML, the outspoken marijuana reform organization, endorsed the legislation but did so with "some hesitancy" because of the limited number of growing sites, according to Reuters. The Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance stayed neutral on Issue 3.
Here's the current tally for Issue 3:
Meanwhile, an October poll by Kent State University found that 58% of registered voters in Ohio would support allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Issue 3, as written, was so abhorred that a wide coalition of children's hospitals, business organizations, lawmakers, and farmers banded together to create Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies to kill the initiative.
In addition, a super-majority in the Ohio General Assembly put an initiative on the ballot that sought to directly counteract Issue 3.
That other initiative, known as Issue 2, seeks to protect "the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit," namely to prohibit the state from granting a petitioner "a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit."
State Rep. Michael F. Curtin, a Democrat who is former editor of The Columbus Dispatch, has called Issue 3 "a prostitution of the initiative process," according to The New York Times.
It's looking as if Issue 2 will pass:
The sentiment among many Ohioans was clear, according to Cincinnati's WLWT5:
"I can't believe I voted 'no' when it was finally on the ballot," said Marty Dvorchak, 62, of the northern Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield. "I think it's ridiculous that marijuana is illegal." But he said he had problems with the way the initiative is structured.
Steve Mosier, 61, of Cincinnati, also voted no because of similar concerns, even though he says he generally supports legalization.
"It's no greater danger to society than alcohol and some other things that are legal, like cigarettes," he said.
Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, was even harsher in his assessment of Issue 3. Here's what Angell had to say in a statement sent to Business Insider:
"[Issue 3] was about a flawed measure and a campaign that didn't represent what voters want ... Several polls leading up to Election Day showed that a clear majority of Ohioans support legalizing marijuana, but voters won't tolerate this issue being taken over by greedy special interests. Our ongoing national movement to end marijuana prohibition is focused on civil rights, health and public safety, not profits for small groups of investors ...
Here's just a bit of the chatter on Twitter about the amendment:
@jaketapper Please report that they are saying no to marijuana monopolies, which is what this election (and my vote) is about.— amk44139 (@amk44139) November 4, 2015
Ohioans didn’t say no to legal marijuana tonight (as recent polls show). They rejected a greedy initiative & poor campaign.— Marijuana Majority (@JoinTheMajority) November 4, 2015
Man ppl surprised or upset at #Issue3 going down aren't from here. Literally every famous pro-3 Ohioan turned out to be an investor in it— Arthur Chu (@arthur_affect) November 4, 2015
The gap between @YesOn3Ohio results and generic legalization polling in OH shows this was about the oligopoly language, not marijuana.— Dan Riffle (@DanRiffle) November 4, 2015
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