Ohio’s Issue 3: Should marijuana production, sale be legalized?

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2011, file photo, medical marijuana clone plants are shown at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. College students are most likely to try marijuana, inhalants and alcohol for the first time during the summer, not the school year, according to the report released Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which examined data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
(Associated Press file)

Television ads are already proliferating that support or oppose Issue 3, which “grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.”

Ohio voters will say yay or nay on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Issue 3 would add an amendment to the Ohio Constitution. The full amendment would require 17 sheets of paper on my printer to print in full. Or, you can read it here:


The ballot initiative itself is a much shorter summary. The official ballot language can be found at this link:


A group called ResponsibleOhio supports the amendment. The group, according to its website, is “comprised of numerous businesswomen and men, medical professionals, and patient advocates who have come together to provide a responsible marijuana reform program for Ohio.”

Several groups oppose the amendment. One such group supports legalizing marijuana, but claims Issue 3 would create a monopoly of fewer than a dozen businesses that can grow the drug. It hopes to offer a different amendment in 2016 that would not limit who can grow marijuana.

According to ballotpedia, the measure, upon voter approval, would legalize the medical and personal use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older. The use of medical marijuana would require a doctor’s note. A recreational user would be permitted to possess one ounce or less of marijuana. Someone choosing to grow marijuana at home for personal use would be permitted to grow four flowering plants at a given time with a cultivation license (which would cost $50, according to ResponsibleOhio).

The amendment would provide for 10 site-specific Marijuana Growth, Cultivation and Extraction (MGCE) facilities, one each in the following counties: Butler, Clermont, Franklin, Hamilton, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Delaware, Stark and Summit.

One marijuana retail store would allowed for every 10,000 Ohioans. With Ohio’s population at 11,594,163 in 2014, the amendment would allow for a maximum of 1,159 stores. Retail sale of marijuana would not be allowed to take place within 1,000 feet of a church, school, library, playground or child care facility; but “after a certain date,” those facilities could not force an existing marijuana shop to close even if it is within 1,000 feet of those establishments.

The 10 initial commercial growing sites “will be operated by separate companies and have to compete with each other on price and quality, which is the exact opposite of a monopoly,” ResponsibleOhio claims on its website, yeson3ohio.com. However, the Ohio Ballot Board ruled last week that the “monopoly” wording on Issue 3 will remain.

FILE - In this June 30, 2015, file photo, the executive director of ResponsibleOhio, Ian James, tells media in Columbus, Ohio, about a campaign to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes in the state. Ohio's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, Sept. 16, that part of the ballot wording describing a proposal to legalize marijuana in the state is misleading and ordered a state board to rewrite it. (AP Photo/Ann Sanner, File)
Ian James, the executive director of ResponsibleOhio, in June tells media in Columbus about a campaign to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes in the state. (Associated Press)

“Similar to alcohol laws,” ResponsibleOhio says, “consumption of marijuana will not be permitted in public … It will be illegal to consume marijuana at schools, day care centers, correctional facilities, a motor vehicle, an aircraft and/or a motorboat.”

Opposition groups include the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, which says it’s impossible to distinguish among commercial, homegrown or illegal marijuana, making it difficult to enforce legal limits; the Associated General Contractors of Ohio, citing workplace safety concerns; and several statewide education groups.

“With more marijuana stores than McDonald’s in the state, our children could easily be exposed to marijuana just walking to school,” Kirk Hamilton, executive director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, told wkyc.com.

Legalizeohio2016 is a pro-marijuana group opposed to Issue 3. According to its website, legalizeohio2016.org, “Legalize Ohio 2016 is committed to the free market. The Cannabis Control Amendment (its proposal for next year’s ballot) provides the lowest possible barriers of entry into the legal cannabis market.”

The group adds this caveat: “Marijuana, like other drugs, is not for kids … However, we do not condone arresting adults who responsibly engage in these activities in order to dissuade our children from doing so … Our expectation and hope for young people is that they grow up to be responsible adults, and our obligation to them is to demonstrate what that means.”

Of course, production and sale of marijuana already are legal in four states, including Colorado, where voters approved the measure in 2012. Sale of recreational marijuana became legal there in 2014.

Tim Cullen, CEO of Colorado Harvest Co., told The Guardian that six years ago, when only medical marijuana was legal, “some of the stores looked more like college dorm rooms.” Today, he said, “our average customer is a business professional, and the vast majority are middle-aged folks with disposable income.”

Is this possible in Ohio? Is this a goal worth seeking?

There’s also debate on whether marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. Each side finds studies to support its view.

This isn’t a simple issue. Let’s get under the rhetoric and do our homework before we head to the ballot box.


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