Know before you vote

What the @%$& are Issues 2 and 3?

By Timothy Walker

Photo: ResponsibleOhio members prepare promotional material in support of Issue 3

 

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there’s pot smoke, well…

Tuesday, Nov. 3, voters across the country will travel to their polling locations to cast their ballots. In Ohio those voters will see on the ballot, along with various other measures, two important initiatives awaiting their decision: Issues 2 and 3—two issues which are very different but are also closely related.

Both initiatives have stirred up their share of controversy, with back-and-forth statements from opposite sides contradicting each other.

Issue 3, if passed, will legalize marijuana in Ohio for both recreational and medical use, and has been attracting the lion’s share of attention in the media. Issue 2 has to do with creating monopolies in the state and was drafted and placed on the ballot by the state legislature in response to Issue 3, which they allege will create a constitutionally-protected marijuana monopoly if passed—something Issue 3’s supporters deny. Both issues are proposed amendments to our state’s constitution, and while there has been a great deal of coverage regarding the two, there has also been misinformation and conjecture, via social media and elsewhere.

Many citizens, including some with firm opinions on whether or not they support Ohio’s legalization of marijuana, remain confused on which way to vote. Where can one go to get the honest truth, with the facts clearly presented, so he or she can make an informed decision? With this article, the Dayton City Paper will attempt to clear the air for you, to blow away the smokescreen and give you the chance to make your own educated decision on November 3.

When you enter the polling booth on election day, you will see this language describing Issue 3 on your ballot:

ISSUE 3

(language as it appears on the ballot)

  • Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes
  • Proposed Constitutional Amendment
  • Proposed by Initiative Petition
  • To add Section 12 of Article XV of the Constitution of the State of Ohio.
  • A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.

The political action committee ResponsibleOhio says Issue 3 is just that simple: if it passes, it will legalize marijuana use across the state, they say. It will end the prohibition of marijuana in Ohio, for both medicinal and recreational use, enabling individuals 21 and over to possess up to an ounce at a time without fear of being arrested. It will allow individuals to grow marijuana in their homes, albeit on a limited basis. It will protect those who need cannabis-based products for medical reasons. ResponsibleOhio downplays criticisms that Issue 3 creates a “monopoly”—although the issue explicitly states that passage will “Endow exclusive rights for commercial marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction to self-designated landowners who own ten predetermined parcels of land…” These are the ten grow sites that have been widely reported in the media, owned by investors who financed ResponsibleOhio and Issue 3.

According to ResponsibleOhio, “Marijuana Prohibition has failed. Ohio spends an estimated $120 million a year to enforce failed marijuana laws. The failure has led to ruining people’s lives and wasting money that should be spent on fighting hard narcotics like heroin and meth.”

Groups and individuals who publicly oppose Issue 3 are numerous: Governor John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine are against it, as are the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio State Medical Association, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Libertarian Party of Ohio, the Ohio Christian Alliance, various children’s hospitals across the state, the Dayton-Area Chamber of Commerce and dozens of other organizations.

In addition, certain groups base their opposition to Issue 3 not because it legalizes marijuana, but on the fact that it creates a constitutional amendment to do so. For example, the Ohio State Bar Association, in a press release stating its objections, has stated “…we do not believe the Ohio Constitution should be used as a vehicle to create the framework for legalizing and then regulating the production and sale of any product, whether marijuana or otherwise. Such regulatory specificities were never intended by the framers to be included in that charter of government called our Constitution.”

Supporters of Issue 3 include the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, NORML, former Cleveland City Council President George Forbes and Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney.

According to its website, “ResponsibleOhio is a political action committee trying to legalize marijuana for personal and medicinal use in Ohio. ResponsibleOhio is comprised of numerous businessmen and women, medical professionals and patient advocates who have come together to provide a responsible marijuana reform program for Ohio.” ResponsibleOhio are the people behind Issue 3; they financed it, drafted the language and collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot—and for that reason, they are urging Ohioans to vote yes on Issue 3, and no on Issue 2 (which we’ll discuss in a few minutes).

“Issue 3 is the chance to legalize medical marijuana and personal-use marijuana for adults 21 and over,” Faith Oltman, a spokesperson for ResponsibleOhio tells us. “It will create a multi-billion dollar industry in Ohio—we estimate over 10,000 jobs at all levels, from the grow sites to manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, retail stores, really a wide variety of job opportunities for Ohioans. It will be well taxed and regulated, and that tax revenue will bring millions of dollars to our communities every year. We estimate that by the time the market stabilizes in 2020 over $545 million will come back to local communities, and that is for law enforcement, fire, as well as infrastructure projects like roads and bridges.”

Others see a number of problems, not only with Issue 3, but with legalization as a whole. “When this first surfaced, our board did a lot of due diligence in talking with people on both sides of the issue,” says Phil Parker, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and an active member of DREAM (Dayton Regional Employers Against Marijuana). “We talked to ResponsibleOhio, we talked to law enforcement, we talked to the ADAMHS Board and to Dayton Children’s Hospital. We did a survey of our members as to what their concerns were, and ultimately we delayed our decision until we were able to get input from various chambers of commerce in Colorado and the state of Washington, where marijuana has already been legalized.”

“Ultimately,” he continues, “our board came to the decision to say no to Issue 3, for three reasons—and our board has been very clear on the reasons and their priority. Reason one: we don’t support monopolies, and we don’t believe there should be monopolies written into our state’s constitution. We are a free market enterprise organization, and we do not believe that a market should be controlled by a very few for ANY product or service. What’s next, if you can buy your way into the state’s constitution?

“Reason two: we did an extensive survey of our chamber membership—and our membership decided this overwhelmingly—as employers we simply do not support the recreational use of marijuana. We think legalization will make it more difficult for us to hire a drug-free workforce, we think if people come to work under the influence of marijuana there could be safety issues, risk issues and liability issues. Our employees drive trucks, they drive forklifts and heavy equipment, they drive company cars, our employees run lathes, and there are inherent safety issues for fellow employees and for the public if people are under the influence at work.

“Reason three,” Parker continues. “Was that we feel it will cause unintended consequences in our communities that people are not taking into consideration. Law enforcement, the state’s FOP, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police; they have all said no to Issue 3. They have told us that marijuana is a gateway drug. Dayton Children’s contacted children’s hospitals in Colorado, and they found out there are inherent community problems that go along with legalization—they found that it’s going to create more problems for young children ingesting the edibles that could be left laying around the house. The Montgomery County ADAMHS Board also came and talked to us and told us this is a gateway drug. We don’t believe in it, and we think it will cause community issues for our state. This is why we are very clear in this—we believe people should vote yes on Issue 2, and no on Issue 3.”

What does ResponsibleOhio have to say to these naysayers? “Well, there are a lot of mischaracterizations out there about marijuana and the marijuana industry,” says Faith Oltman. “And unfortunately some establishment groups have chosen to buy into those myths and mischaracterizations, but we know one thing: if we don’t pass Issue 3 and marijuana isn’t legalized, then we will continue to surrender our streets to drug dealers and we will maintain the status quo. That isn’t working, it hasn’t been working for years. Ohio spends more than $100 million every year enforcing failed marijuana prohibition and at the end of the day drug dealers don’t create any legitimate jobs. They don’t pay taxes. They don’t card kids before they sell to them. If we don’t legalize marijuana, we’ll just continue on with the same thing.”

Curt Steiner, a spokesperson for Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, voices his objections clearly: “Issue 3 was written by a small group of wealthy, self-selected investors who want to create a marijuana monopoly and put it in the constitution, and just make a whole lot of money by cornering the market on marijuana sales if Issue 3 passes.”

A yes vote on Issue 3, then, will be a vote in favor of a new Ohio constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana use in the state, under the guidelines drafted by ResponsibleOhio. That is, unless Issue 2 also passes, according to our state legislature. If both issues pass, then the entire ball of wax stands a good chance of being ultimately decided in the Supreme Court. Which brings us, by a circuitous route, back to Issue 2, which was written in response to Issue 3.

 

 

ISSUE 2

(language as it appears on the ballot)

  • Anti-monopoly amendment; protects the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit
  • Proposed Constitutional Amendment
  • Proposed by Joint Resolution of the General Assembly
  • Proposing to amend Section 1e of Article II of the Constitution of the State of Ohio.
  • A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.

Issue 2 was created and added to the ballot in a bipartisan effort by the Ohio state legislature in order to prevent Issue 3 from taking effect if voters pass it. It will also make passage more difficult for any future similar initiatives. The title of Issue 2 says it all, and the issue reads in part, quite specifically, “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. Prohibit from taking effect any proposed constitutional amendment appearing on the November 3, 2015 General Election ballot that creates a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for the sale, distribution, or other use of any federal Schedule I controlled substance.” Where Issue 3, if passed, would take effect in 90 days, Issue 2 will take effect immediately.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio, in their 2015 Election Guide, has this to say: “Issue 2 would prohibit an initiative petition amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would give special business rights to a certain person or entity. Specifically, Issue 2 would prohibit an initiative that creates a monopoly, cartel, or oligopoly; specifies or determines a tax rate; or confers a commercial interest, commercial right, or commercial license to any person or entity for the purpose of exclusively enriching its members and prohibiting others from engaging in similar enterprises.”

“If Issue 2 passes,” the Election Guide continues, “The Ohio Ballot Board will be required to evaluate any proposed initiative petition to determine if it violates the prohibition above by creating a limited commercial interest. If such an initiative is proposed, the Ballot Board will be required to separate the proposed initiative into two parts—one part asking voters to override the limited business interest rule, and the second part describing the proposed new initiative—with both parts needing a majority vote for the initiative to pass. If both Issue 2 and Issue 3 are approved by the voters, it is unclear what will happen, because they would create conflicting sections within the state constitution. The Ohio Supreme Court will likely have to resolve the matter if both issues pass.”

Supporters of Issue 2 include the Ohio Republican Party, Senate President Keith Faber, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and multiple other lawmakers. “Issue 2, if passed, will protect the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit,” says Matt McClellan, communications director for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Critics and legal experts, however, say because the amendment’s language is unclear, Issue 2 could jeopardize future citizen initiatives. For this reason, opponents include Common Cause Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, and the Ohio Green Party, in addition to ResponsibleOhio.

As is usually the case in politics, neither Issue 2 or Issue 3 is as simple as they appear at first glance. A concerned voter must make up their mind on a number of questions when deciding whether to vote for or against each issue. While each voter must be willing to educate themselves prior to going to the polls, we hope that this examination of the two issues, and what they both mean, might help steer you in the right direction on Nov. 3.

 

Tim Walker is 50 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their 2 children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz and black t-shirts. Reach him at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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