Ohio: Fears Of Marijuana Monopoly Undercut Support For Legalization Measure
By Steve Elliott
If a ballot measure says "legalization" on it, it's always good, right? RIGHT? Maybe not.
A proposal that could this November make Ohio the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana is drawing some unusual opposition -- and it's coming from residents who support legalizing marijuana, reports Lewis Wallace at NPR.
Lots of liberals and old hippies don't like the monopoly aspect of the referendum. Samantha Van Ness, 25, said that while she's all for legalizing cannabis, she's dead set against the amendment that will be on November's ballot.
"I would rather take the minor misdemeanor fine than let someone have such a massive monopoly in my state," she said. And that's reflected statewide among many who have problems with the initiative and with the group, ResponsibleOhio, that's pushing it.
One of the biggest reasons why is that the initiative specifies just 10 locations in the state where growing marijuana would be allowed. And, guess what? Ten groups of investors already have those sites locked down, ladies and gentlemen.
Those same investors -- surprise, surprise! -- are sinking $20 million into the campaign to make sure their massively profitable monopoly comes to pass. "So in essence," reports NPR, "they are paying to try to amend the Ohio Constitution to grant themselves pot growing rights."
ResponsibleOhio director Ian James claims there's a reason for the cash grab.
"There are other folks that say, 'I think we should treat marijuana like lettuce and tomatoes,'" James said. "Well, lettuce and tomatoes don't impair you. Marijuana does."
James said limiting growing to just 10 (already spoken for) sites makes it "easier to regulate and monitor," and the big money allows them to run a big campaign.
The investors -- in other words, the guys who'd control the pot industry in Ohio if this thing passes -- include former NBA star Oscar Robertson, NFL player Frostee Rucker, Nick Lachey from the boy band 98 Degrees, and two relatives of the late President William H. Taft, who live in Cincinnati.
While it is time to legalize marijuana, this is the wrong approach, accordindg to Sri Kavuru, president of Ohioans to End Prohibition. "I don't think auctioning off the Ohio Constitution is the only way to do that," Kavuru said.
His group is trying to pass a different amendment next year -- one that would create a free market for growers, instead of restricting that privilege to 10 rich guys.
GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted included the word "monopoly" in the issue title that's slated to go on the ballot this fall. "You could call it a duopoly, an oligopoly or a cartel, which are other words that we could've chosen, but we figured that monopoly was the most easily understandable," he said.
ResponsibleOhio has issues with that wording, and has taken it to court. James claims "monopoly" is an unfair characterization. He said it would create 10,00 jobs and more than $500 million a year in tax revenue for Ohio. But he didn't have a lot to say about those 10 guys getting even richer off growing the stuff.
The big money behind the measure is already buying ads, and there's even a mascot: Buddie, a green, muscular dude who's touring college campuses in a bus.
Obviously, they're hoping voters won't read the fine print -- after all, that approach worked just fine in Washington state!
Graphic: Cannabis Therapy Solutions