Ohio Strikes it Down: Will Marijuana Legalization Live to Fight Another Day?

By: Thomas S. Wolinetz
November 11, 2015

This past week Ohio attempted to legalize Marijuana both medically and recreationally, all in one shot.  However, Issue 3, as it was known on the ballot initiative, was struck down by more than 60% of the Ohio legislature for a variety of reasons, some more significant then others.  Ohio’s unprecedented attempt, as well as, the shockingly large opposition to it has led many observers to wonder if the national trend and support for legalizing Marijuana has reversed.  Despite the results of the Ohio marijuana vote, it would be too quick to assume a decrease in the support for marijuana legalization. In order to understand why the trend has not reversed, let’s examine why Ohio’s Issue 3 did not pass.

1.  Legalization would have created a Monopoly. The most apparent problem with Issue 3 was the fact it would amend the Ohio State Constitution, which in turn would have created a monopoly on commercial pot cultivation by only allowing 10 growers. Additionally, these 10 growers would be assigned to individuals who invested in the Issue 3 campaign. The backers of Issue 3 argued that this would in fact be an advantage; it would allow the state to tightly regulate marijuana at the source.[i]

2. The Political Establishment was opposed to it. Unusual? No not at all, however, the establishment put everything it had into the fight against issue 3.  Going as far as drafting and getting on the ballot Issue 2, which would have prohibited market monopolies. [ii]

3. Marijuana Activists were opposed to it. Unusual? I would say so; many of them have been fighting this fight for a while in Ohio. Clearly, they did not like the idea of a few well-backed companies swooping in and becoming rich off of Issue 3.[iii]

It becomes quite clear from the final polling numbers that the Voters of Ohio State did not buy into this initiative. Eastern Ohio’s Jefferson County had the best showing and it still only managed a 42.4 percent vote for legalization. The worst showing was Ohio’s Putnam County in which Issue 3 only won 17.7 percent of the vote. Additionally, 20.3% voted “yes” in Mercer County, 22.8% in Holmes County, 25 % in Auglaize County and 25.3% in Shelby County.  The most telling statistic is that the polling numbers in the 10 counties where the grow sites would be located showed that only 37.5 percent voted to pass the ballot.[iv] Some critics believe that these numbers were lower because this was an off-year election. Passing an initiative as large as this one in an off year is an uphill hill battle when voter turnout in an off year is usually about 30% compared to the normal 70%.

After knowing some of the reasons why this initiative did not pass, it will lead many critics to claim that the bubble has finally burst and the trend of Marijuana Legalization is beginning to reverse. Take their projections with a grain of salt. Despite the fact that Form 3 did not pass, Ohio’s attorney general Mike Devine said that “[he] think[s] medical marijuana is coming. Most Ohioans, when they look at this issue, you know, have great sympathy for people who might be helped by medical marijuana.”[v] He went on to say, “The Ohio Legislature is going to start looking at the issue of medical marijuana, and I think they’re going to start doing this very quickly,” DeWine also said. “What I told the speaker is that our office has been working on this for the last few months. We’ve seen what other states have done. And so I think we’ve got kind of a menu, so to speak, to present to the state Legislature that the Legislature can pick and choose from about which way they want to go with regard to medical marijuana.”[i]

In addition to Ohio, Massachusetts, California, Missouri, Hawaii, Maine and Nevada are on the verge of legalizing Marijuana for both medical and recreational use.[ii] As stated previously, the trend of Marijuana legalization is far from reversing.  The movement may hit bumps in the road as it did when an overwhelming majority voted down Issue 3. However, many states are and will continue to look to the possibilities of legalizing Marijuana.

About the Author:
Thomas S. Wolinetz is the Managing Editor of Business and Law of Marijuana and he is a J.D. Candidate at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University where he expects to graduate in 2016. He is currently a law clerk at Sichenzia Ross Friedman Ference LLP where he works on a variety of securities litigation and corporate transactional matters. Earlier in his career, Mr. Wolinetz worked at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a Legal Intern and as a Law Clerk at Ezratty, Ezratty & Levine LLP, as well as, Wexler Burkhart Hirschberg and Unger. During his first year at law school, Mr. Wolinetz received the First Year Course Excellence Awards for Property and Contracts II. He is currently the Business and Technology Editor of the Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal, Volume 33 and a member of the Hofstra Law Moot Arbitration Team.

[i] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/11/04/6-reasons-ohio-marijuana-legalization-failed/75143764/
[ii] Id.
[iii] Id.
[v] http://www.wlwt.com/news/ohio-attorney-general-believes-legal-medical-marijuana-is-likely/36279728
[vi] Id.
[vii] http://www.wlwt.com/news/ohio-attorney-general-believes-legal-medical-marijuana-is-likely/36279728

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