How Will The Legalization Movement Be Affected If ResponsibleOhio Loses or Is Blocked?
First, it’s important to point out that the provision for only allowing the ResponsibleOhio investment groups to own and operate commercial marijuana grow farms is questionable, at best, in its benefit to the consumer, and the optics in the public’s eye have been even worse in the way that it’s brought up talk of “monopolies” and “cartels”.
It’s also important to note that the $2 million put up by each of the 10 investment groups, totaling $20 million, is a lot of money on a very risky venture. To suggest that they should have done this without any expectation of return on their money is unrealistic and unreasonable. Whether they should be allowed, by law, protection from competitors is another question and one that has been the wrench in what could have been a fairly smooth road to legalization.
This point has led marijuana advocates, who are all for legalization, to splinter in their support or opposition to ResponsibleOhio’s initiative, and this has allowed opponents to shift the discussion from legalizing weed to prohibiting “marijuana monopolies”.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION OPPONENTS EXPLOITING THE “MARIJUANA MONOPOLY” CONTROVERSY
The most recent Quinnipiac University Poll found that a majority of Ohioans support legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana. The numbers are similar to what they are for the entire nation. The general public no longer sees marijuana as something that leads to “reefer madness” or the downfall of our society. Anti-marijuana groups are losing their battle to maintain the prohibition and to condition people to think that marijuana is a “hard drug” that will lead to even “harder drugs”.
What we are seeing in Ohio is akin to anti-marijuana 2.0. They are couching the anti-marijuana narrative in talks of fighting “monopolies” and protecting free commerce. The competing constitutional amendment on the ballot in November doesn’t directly block legal marijuana. It “simply” prohibits ballot initiatives that would create a “monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel”. So theoretically, a voter could vote for both; thinking they want legal marijuana but also don’t want a monopoly. With marijuana opponents and some marijuana advocates both voting for the competing amendment, it’s conceivable that ResponsibleOhio’s efforts will be blocked, even if majority of voters vote to legalize weed.
Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies
Other groups who are generally opposed to any form of legal marijuana are also lining up against legalization saying they are fighting “monopolies”. One such group calling themselves “Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies” recently launched to fight the ResponsibleOhio ballot initiative. What’s interesting is that their name suggests their focus is “against marijuana monopolies”, but their statements all point to blocking all marijuana, whether in a monopoly or otherwise. At a press conference to outline the group’s position, they are quoted as saying:
“We are concerned that making marijuana legally available to adults will result in increased access for teens and children, as well as causing teens to believe legalization equates to ‘safe,’ ”
“We know that marijuana can impair memory and concentration in adolescents, as well as interfere with learning, motor control, coordination and judgment. We also know that regular use is linked to psychological problems, issues with lung health and a higher likelihood of drug dependence in adulthood.”
Their position doesn’t seem to support legalization of marijuana under any circumstances; the same old arguments that’s been used for years, most of which have no basis in fact. The group’s title is, in effect, “Ohioans Against Marijuana“, not “Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies”; the “monopolies” wording implies they are against a certain form of legal marijuana when, in actuality, there is no form of legalization that is “safe” in their minds.
Their strategy to splinter the marijuana advocates using the monopoly controversy was evident at the press conference when a reporter asked:
“General polling has shown that people are starting to become more in favor of legalized marijuana. How do you reach those voters?”
The response clearly lays out the strategy. Note how they are against it because it’s a “monopoly” but they are also against it because “it’s so wide open”:
“There are a number of flat out dedicated pro-marijuana groups that are against Issue 3 because of the way it’s set up. So even some of the people you are talking about are gonna vote against Issue 3. We have seen videos of ResponsibleOhio’s events picketed by people. All the people who are picketing there want legalized marijuana and are upset because someone’s trying to corner the market. So we are actually going to get a few of the votes of people that are in favor of legalized marijuana ”
“And many many many people who are in favor of some limited use of marijuana don’t react well to this proposal because it’s so wide open”
The most recent poll shows that the split between those who support legalizing recreational marijuana and those opposed is a slim one, with 52% for and 44% against. The opposition only needs to convince a relatively small percentage of the marijuana advocates to vote against ResponsibleOhio’s proposal to be successful.
IMPACT ON THE NATIONAL LEGALIZATION MOVEMENT FROM A LOSS IN OHIO
Ohio is seen by the nation as “middle America”; what happens in Ohio is not only a predictor of the national sentiment, but also a driver of it. A vote in Ohio against legalizing marijuana will be seen by many in the nation as reflecting the general public’s position, which will, in turn, affect their own feelings on the matter. And in light of the fact that the opponents are against all legal marijuana, a loss by ResponsibleOhio, even if the loss was entirely due to the “monopoly” controversy, will be used to say that Ohio rejected legalizing marijuana. It is entirely conceivable that those on the fence about legal marijuana will say, “Ohio rejected legalizing marijuana. There must be something to it. I should be against it too.”
Additionally, presidential candidates will temper their support or ramp up their opposition to legal marijuana heading into the elections based on outcome of this November’s vote. Ohio is a critical state to any presidential campaign. If Ohioans reject legalizing marijuana, it will be difficult for a candidate to come out strongly in support of it, and most likely, we result in them opposing it, especially recreational marijuana.
Where Will New Money Come From?
There’s been some concerns, even by us, that if ResponsibleOhio’s approach to legalization is successful, it would usher in an era of investment groups using the same tactics in other states.
But what if they fail? Wouldn’t other groups who are watching Ohio’s outcome decide that it isn’t worth the risk?
The legalization movement takes money. The kind of money that can compete with big money interests that are against legalization. The movement can’t sustain the current momentum with just donations. It will require the kind of money that was brought to bear in Ohio, and that kind of money, unfortunately, doesn’t come cheap. It’s a business venture with huge risks that demands a commensurate return.
Time to Circle The Wagons?
In light of the possible national implications of a loss by ResponsibleOhio, is it perhaps time to set our differences aside for the good of the legalization movement as a whole?
ResponsibleOhio is far from what most of us want in an ideal marijuana law. Placing such strict limitation on commercial grow operations is bad policy and PR. But it’s failure would mean marijuana, including medical marijuana, would remain illegal in the state. Another ballot initiative will have to climb the same mountain of expenses and opposition that ResponsibleOhio did, but most likely, with less money, and probably less public support.
Is it better to try and get marijuana legalized in Ohio, even with an imperfect law, and then try to fix the newly passed law, or is fighting the investor-owned grow farms worth possibly shutting down the whole movement in the state?
VOTE IN OUR POLL AND SOUND OFF BELOW!