On Tuesday, the controversial ballot that would have legalized marijuana in the state of Ohio was rejected by voters. According to the current polling, the vote to make marijuana legal for recreational and medical use in the state was rejected by almost 2-to-1 margins. The rejection comes despite recent surveys that show most of Ohio would actually support the legalization of marijuana; the problem here was the specifics of the bill and the greed of the companies that were pushing the campaign.
The proposal to make marijuana legal in the state of Ohio became known as Issue 3, and it would have allowed persons who are 21 years and older to purchase, use, and even grow a certain amount of marijuana. Of course, there would have been regulatory and tax schemes in place to handle legalization. The major issue that voters had with the ballot initiative, though, was the clause embedded in the proposal that would establish a monopoly – or rather an oligopoly, since there would be ten beneficiaries – in the states’ constituency, giving exclusivity rights to the chief wealthy donors that supported and advocated for the ballot.
However, at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening, the election results were announced, and Issue 3 was rejected by voters. Washington Post reported that the Associated Press was responsible for calling the election and reported that almost 65 percent of votes rejected the legalization of marijuana, while only 35 percent voted in favor of Issue 3.
If the ballot had been passed, 10 land owners would have gained exclusive rights in Ohio to grow and cultivate marijuana for commercial purposes. The pro-marijuana legalization group funders called themselves ResponsibleOhio and reportedly spent over 12 million on ads in support of Issue 3 and approximately $25 million total on the campaign. The monopolistic methods of ResponsibleOhio were a fundamental part of the campaign from the very beginning, and the group was built around these 10 wealthy funders each putting forth $2 million to finance the campaign in exchange for the exclusive rights to have marijuana grown for commercial purposes on 10 parcels of land owned by these investors.
Even national advocacy groups that have previously supported marijuana legalization in other states, such as the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, chose to refrain from supporting the Ohio bill. Even the very outspoken pro marijuana group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), gave its endorsement very late in the process and did so with much hesitancy because of the limited amount of allowable growing sites stipulated. Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance stated that he believed it was only the presence of the oligopoly clause that caused the legalization to be rejected.
“What was most offensive about [the Ohio measure] was that they wanted to make it a constitutionally mandated oligopoly in perpetuity. It’s clearly the case that the oligopoly provision turned people off.”
Business Insider advises that the oligopoly strategy of Issue 3 was so off putting that various business organizations, children’s hospitals, lawmakers, and even farmers joined forces to create Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies and added an anti-monopoly amendment to the ballot that directly countered Issue 3. Their initiative was called Issue 2 with the aim to protect “the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit.” The state would be prohibited from granting a monopoly, oligopoly, or any cartel situations that would result in companies gaining exclusive financial benefits. As of 10 pm, with 60 percent of precincts reporting, Ohioans had voted 53 percent in favor of Issue 2. It seems as if this counter measure to the monopoly may pass.
Tom Angell, the chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, gave an interview expressing his disgust with Issue 3 that seems to sum up how many feel about the ballot.
“[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.”
Many took to Twitter to express their sentiments on why marijuana legalization in Ohio was rejected and Issue 2 is gaining favor; you can see a few of them below.
[Photo Courtesy of Bruce Bennet/ Getty Images]