Citizens For Change
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On November 3rd, 2015, the Responsible Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative was defeated by a vote of 63.65% against to 36.35% in favor. The title of the ballot was the issue for many. It read “grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.” The word monopoly was the stumbling block for many voters.
These that voted for the Responsible Ohio measure were voting for the legalization of the limited sale of marijuana from 10 licensed facilities. The winning vote saw that the current laws remained unchanged. There were elements to the ballot that pro-legalization supporters approved of.
This includes the promotion of “marijuana-infused products concentrates, sprays, ointments and tinctures by marijuana product manufacturing facilities”. There were also impressive measures about research and development.
This included the proposal to create a marijuana incubator in Cuyahoga County and locate additional testing facilities around Ohio colleges and universities.
Supporters of this bill had a lot of interesting points to make on the benefits for Ohio and its people. They talked about job creation and tax revenue, with an estimate of $550 million in sales tax.
They claimed that 85% would have gone to local government to improve towns and cities. The benefit of the ten facilities was justified through the idea that it enforce safety, quality control, and further regulation.
Opponents of the Marijuana Legalization Initiative were varied and vocal. There were both anti-drug and pro-drug activists. Many oppose to that keyword: “monopoly.” It is interesting that two months before the vote, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on the language used on the ballot.
It felt that the ballot “inaccurately [stated] pertinent information and [omitted] essential information.” However, the court also found that the use of monopoly was not misleading, inaccurate or persuasive.
The decisive element of the ballot came down to the issue of regulation and licensing. There were clear ideas on who would be able to grow, sell and possess marijuana in the state. Growth was to carry out by 10 MGCE facilities (Marijuana Growth, Cultivation, and Extraction) and by them alone.
They would have exclusive rights to do so and would have to run independently. This clause with added to ensure voters that collusion could not take place. However, voters were already concerned about legitimacy over the “monopoly” issue. In addition to this, those facilities would not have been able to sell directly to the public, only to licensed stores.
Licensing was a big part of the Responsible Ohio bill. These propose regulations in place for issues of growth, possession, and use. License holders above the age of 21 would permit to grow and possess eight ounces worth. Anyone younger restricted to one ounce. This was simply not enough for those that had expected legalization to lead to home-growing.
Medicinal marijuana use was to determine by certification, and the medical condition had to class as debilitating. All of this regulation and control would have fallen into the hands of the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission. All scientific research would also have to pass through this body, giving them a great sense of power and responsibility.
Stores would permit to sell stock from those 10 MGCE facilities. They could also not sell the product for less than they paid for it. This led to concerns about the accessibility and cost of recreational marijuana in Ohio.
There would also have been regulation on where these stores could have set themselves up. The proposition was to stop them from being within 1000ft of places of worships, schools, and public playgrounds.
The opinions of anti-drug and pro-drug protestors and the issues of law vs. legalization highlight the problem with this ballot. This was a middle ground between legalization and prohibition. That suits to nobody but Responsible Ohio and the big business growers. This was not what users, stores and around two-thirds of Ohio voters wanted. It is not much of a surprise that it wasn’t passed it.
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