5 Things On Legalizing Marijuana California Can Learn From Ohio

By Joe Garofoli
San Francisco Chronicle.

Californians who want to legalize marijuana next year may see cautionary lessons in the way 64 percent of Ohio voters crushed a bid to legalize it there on Tuesday.

Ohio’s ballot measure beatdown wasn’t as much about weed as it was money and control. Ohio’s Issue 3 would have allowed only 10 marijuana growing sites in the state. Those 10 sites were owned by some of the wealthy people — including reality TV star Nick Lachey — who contributed $36 million to the measure. That gave many voters the impression that the legalization bid was something of an inside job that would benefit only a chosen few.

The measure’s opponents sunk it by calling it a “monopoly,” but really it would have been an oligopoly — establishing a different type of weed cartel.

“The Ohio initiative, pushed by wealthy investors with no prior connection to marijuana activism, would grant its backers a permanent, lucrative oligopoly on marijuana cultivation in the state,” wrote Keith Humphreys, a former senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and a member of California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and a Stanford professor.

That’s one of several teachable moments California’s legal pot backers see in Ohio’s failed bid:

Keep all types of cartels out: Also on Ohio’s ballot Tuesday — in reaction to the weed initiative — was Issue 2, which would have prevented monopolies from being written into the Ohio state constitution. On Tuesday, 52 percent of Ohio voters supported keeping the state monopoly-free.

“Any voter initiative in any state can not just ‘be good for big marijuana industry’; it must be good for the community at large, and with the participation of the community, rather than from behind closed doors,” said Dale Sky Jones, the executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University and chairwoman of Reform California, which is supporting a legalization measure aimed at the 2016 ballot. “Ohio rejected the idea of being bought, and wanted good policy, which the voters did not feel this initiative provided.”

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