Issue 3 Backers Aim To Make Ohio Trend Setter For Marijuana Legalization Effort

Photo by Flickr.com's Mike Herbst
Photo by Flickr.com's Mike Herbst
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By OPR's Jo Ingles

Ohio could be the first state to legalize marijuana for medical and personal use at the same time if voters give the green light to Issue 3 next week.

But unless Issue 3 wins big and Issue 2 is defeated, it’s likely this plan will be decided in the courts instead of the court of public opinion.

ResponsibleOhio, the group backing Issue 3, says the constitutional amendment specifies ten growing sites, allows for more than 1,100 retail stores and would be operated by a board that would enforce rules and insure quality control. The proposal would also allow Ohioans 21 years old and over to grow up to four pot plants in their homes with a $50 license.

ResponsibleOhio’s Ian James says at least 12,000 jobs would be created in the industry alone, not to mention jobs related to it. And as for income, he says local communities would see a lot of tax money come into their coffers.

“It would generate $554 million each year and we actually believe that is conservative.”

But Ohio’s budget director, Tim Keen, says legalization could bring in much less annual tax revenue - at most, just under $300 million and as little at $133 million each year. This is the set of numbers opponents of Issue 3 use when they talk about why Ohio shouldn’t pass the measure. Curt Steiner is with Ohioans against Marijuana Monopolies, the group opposing Issue 3.

“People we are talking to don’t believe that they’re going to get that kind of money. People think there is always a shell game associated with those kinds of things.”

Steiner’s “Vote No on 3” effort has a long list of backers….more than 100 groups from business leaders, safety forces, medical and health associations and more. Steiner says Issue 3’s supporters are not being truthful about their claim that its passage would make Ohio safer.

“Basically every Ohio couple can have more than a pound of dope in their house legally. I guarantee that some of that will be sold to people on the black market. So this was not done to stop the black market. This was done to line the pockets of rich investors who put the proposal together.”
But Ian James with ResponsibleOhio says Steiner is wrong.

“I really like Curt a lot. He’s unfortunately the Ron Burgundy of campaigns. You write a line on a $1 bill and he’s going to say it.”

But there’s more to Issue 3 than just the economics of it. Groups that have been pushing for medical marijuana for decades, such as NORML and the Ohio Rights Groups, are supporting it. So does Cincinnati’s Nicole Scholten, the mother of a child who suffers from severe epilepsy, an illness that some people claim has been alleviated with marijuana.

“So for those who say, “wait a year for a better plan,” I have to say today that I see no guarantee that any other measure is going to actually get another great idea on our ballot. I will not take that gamble.”

An investor in one of the ten sites is a doctor who wants to provide medical marijuana. His site in Licking County would allow an independent medical group, the International Cannabinoid Institute, to build a $24 million laboratory on that site where Dr. Sue Sisely would conduct research.

“We are trying to conduct independent research to collect objective data on how marijuana performs in humans. We intend to publish the good and the bad of marijuana. So it’s not like big pharma where they just publish studies that make their drugs look favorable.”

But Tim Maglione, the head of the Ohio State Medical Association, says passing Issue 3 is not the way to get this research done.

“There are some studies that show it may have a beneficial medical use but that evidence is certainly not conclusive and more research does need to occur. However, we think that research needs to be done in the way that all drugs ultimately get approved for use and that’s through very rigorous clinical trials.”

Advocates for medical marijuana say that is not going to happen anytime soon because “big pharma” controls the research industry. But opponents of Issue 3 say it’s the ten investors who own those sites who stand to benefit financially through this proposed amendment. And those opponents are largely supporting Issue 2, a proposed constitutional amendment that gives more power to the state’s Ballot Board, which determines whether constitutional amendments make it to voters.

Issue 2 has been called the anti-monopoly amendment, and was put on the ballot by state lawmakers who say it will keep entities from putting up amendments that benefit only their financial interests. Secretary of State Jon Husted has said if both issues pass, Issue 2 will keep Issue 3 from becoming law. And if that happens, Issue 3’s backers are promising they’ll take this fight to court. And if that happens, it could be quite some time before marijuana could be legalized in Ohio.

 

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