Ohio: Where Legalization Comes Down to Two Issues

This November, Ohio voters will have the opportunity to vote on The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Issue 3. If passed, Ohio will be the fifth state, the first in the Midwest, to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

Although legalizing marijuana for recreational use sounds like a no-brainer, the reality is that it’s just not that simple for Ohio. Issue 3 aims to create 10 marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction facilities that would hold the exclusive rights to produce marijuana for public consumption. These facilities would not sell the product to consumers, but handle every step involved in the cultivation process before selling it to retailers. The measure requires that these facilities operate independently of each other, state lawmakers and voters alike felt it still granted the MGCE facility owners too much control of the state’s cannabis industry. Enter Issue 2.

The Ohio Initiated Monopolies Amendment, Issue 2, was drafted as a response to Issue 3. Issue 2, if passed, will require the Ohio Ballot Board to determine whether a proposed initiative would create an economic monopoly or special privilege for the entity involved. In other words, amendments like Issue 3 would need to be examined by the Ballot Board and, if determined to create such a monopoly or privilege, be presented to voters alongside a separate ballot question that reads:

“Shall the petitioner, in violation of division (B)(1) of Section 1e of Article II of the Ohio Constitution, be authorized to initiate a constitutional amendment that grants or creates a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel, specifies or determines a tax rate, or confers a commercial interest, commercial right, or commercial license that is not available to other similarly situated persons?”

Basically, a separate question reminding voters that the issue presented to them is in violation of the state’s anti-monopoly law. Voters will have to approve both questions for such an amendment to pass.

Currently, more than half of Ohio voters support both Issue 2 and Issue 3, which presents a problem. If approved, Issue 2 will invalidate Issue 3, delaying marijuana legalization in Ohio. The issue would need to be settled in the Ohio Supreme Court, which can be a long, expensive process.

Monopolies make for a stifled economy. That’s why we have laws like the Sherman Antitrust Act. When the power to control a specific industry, or even just a part of that industry’s supply chain, is limited to only a few participants, those participants can easily become corrupt by engaging in unfair business practices like collusion.

Issue 2 is not necessarily seeking to undermine efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio. Rather, it would require voters to examine the choices they face closely when those choices may allow or lead to monopolies.

Just like any election, voter education and turnout are critical this November. Be an active participant in your country’s progress and go vote.

Photo Credit: Enrique Fernández

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