By Daniel Karell
The citizens of Ohio sent a resounding no to marijuana legalization on election night.
As of press time, with nearly 70 percent of precincts reporting in the state, issue three, which would have legalized marijuana and effectively created a monopoly on growing and selling sites, lost by a nearly 30 percent margin, 65 to 35, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website. The website states that issue three received 819,949 yes votes and 1,515,981 no votes.
Interestingly, the precincts reporting across the state show that issue two, which protects the initiative process from creating a monopoly, passed, but only by around a 52 to 48 margin.
In Brown County, issue three was defeated by a nearly 59 to 41 margin, with 7,051 voting no and 4,944 voting yes.
In response to successful ballot box amendments to decriminalize marijuana in four U.S. states – Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Colorado – the Political Action Committee Responsible Ohio petitioned to place Issue three on this November’s ballot.
The legalization amendment overcame numerous hurdles, including initial rejections on petition language from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and an investigation into legal signatures collected on the petition by Ohio Secretary of State John Husted. But eventually, it was approved to be on the ballot.
If it’s passed, issue three would allow the limited sale and possession of marijuana to those 21-years or older, both recreationally and medicinally. But different from the other states where amendments passed, issue three calls for the creation of ten growing sites in ten Ohio counties, where all of the state’s marijuana crop will be sold and distributed from.
The ten pre-determined sites are co-owned by some famous individuals, including former 98 Degrees front-man Nick Lachey and former University of Cincinnati and NBA star Oscar Robertson. The ten sites are located in Clermont, Hamilton, Butler, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Delaware, Summit, Franklin, and Stark Counties.
The facilities are called marijuana growth, cultivation and extraction facilities (MGCEs), and they have exclusive rights to commercial production of marijuana, and it’s for this reason that there has been plenty of opposition to the amendment. While many opponents don’t want to see marijuana legalized at all, even more are against what they’re calling a “marijuana monopoly.”
By having only ten sites to grow and distribute marijuana for sale statewide, and writing into law that marijuana retailers can only sell marijuana from those sites, opponents believe that they would be codifying a monopoly, or oligopoly.
The opponents therefore quickly put on the ballot a counter-measure, issue two, which would prohibit monopolies being formed through ballot measures. To use the wording on the referendum, it states that’s an anti-monopoly amendment that “protects the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit.”
The first line of the measure states, “prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status,” which is clearly a jab at issue three.
Opponents of issue three include the likes of Governor John Kasich, DeWine, Auditor of State Ned Yost, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and the Ohio Manufactures Association.
Locally, Brown County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Carl Smith has come out in opposition to issue three.
Supporters include former Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney, and former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher.
Opponents of issue three have asked for voters to vote yes on issue two and no on issue three, with issue three supporters asking voters to do the opposite.
Reading the fine print, if issue three is passed, anyone 21 years of age or older can “grow, cultivate, use, possess, and share up to eight ounces of usable homegrown marijuana plus four flowering marijuana plants” if they acquire a valid state marijuana license, similar to a person acquiring a hunting license.
In addition, anyone 21 years of age or older may “purchase, possess, transport, use, or share” up to one ounce of marijuana. It’s not included in the ballot measure, but those caught with more than one ounce of marijuana without a license are still subject to local and state laws.
Medical marijuana would also be authorized by the passage of this measure.
In terms of purchasing retail marijuana, the revenue earned would be taxed at a flat rate of 15 percent, with a special five percent tax placed on each retail store’s revenue.
The measure would also apply limits on governmental regulation of the measure.
Two bullets state that if passed, the measure would “prohibit any local or state law, including zoning laws, from being applied to prohibit the development or operation of marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction facilities, retail marijuana stores, and medical marijuana dispensaries” unless those areas are zoned residential as of Jan. 1, 2015, and “limit the ability of the legislature and local governments from regulating the manufacture, sales, distribution, and use of marijuana and marijuana products.”
If passed, issue three would go into effect on December 3, 30 days after the election. If issue two passes, it would go into effect immediately.