Why Ohio’s Marijuana Vote Is Uniquely Controversial

A measure on Ohio ballots asks whether the state should legalize marijuana. But several aspects of the measure set it apart from similar efforts in other states.

Why Ohio’s Marijuana Vote Is Uniquely Controversial Photo (cc) by House of Hall

When a state considers legalizing marijuana, it is inherently controversial. That is partially because possession and use of cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.

But a measure on Ohio ballots today, Election Day, is uniquely controversial.

Several characteristics of the marijuana legalization effort in Ohio set the state apart from other states that have already legalized recreational marijuana, the Washington Post reports. They include:

  • Ohio is the first state to try to legalize medical and recreational marijuana at the same time (rather than to legalize medical use first and later expand laws to allow recreational use).
  • If legalization efforts succeed, Ohio would be the first state in the traditionally conservative Midwest to legalize marijuana.

What makes the pot measure on Ohio ballots today especially controversial, though, is the campaign behind it, and the fact that the measure is a constitutional amendment that would limit the cultivation and sale of cannabis to 10 predetermined farms.

In other words, as the Washington Post puts it:

Any pot distributor in Ohio would have no choice but to buy marijuana grown from one of these farms. In essence, it’s a marijuana monopoly.

Those farms are owned by investors who include singer Nick Lachey and descendants of former U.S. President William Howard Taft and former professor basketball star Oscar Robertson, according to the Washington Post.

Ownership groups were asked to invest millions of dollars in the ResponsibleOhio campaign pushing for marijuana legalization in the Buckeye State.

If the amendment succeeds, the farm owners stand to gain a lot more, as they would be ground-floor investors in a business that would bring in an estimated $1 billion a year, according to the Washington Post.

Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, tells Politico magazine:

“The values of Woodstock have been eclipsed by the values of Wall Street. This is the big industry nightmare that we’ve been worried about, and now it’s becoming a reality in Ohio. For anyone who thinks legalization is about pot anymore, they need to look at Ohio and see it’s not about pot, it’s about money.”

How do you feel about marijuana legalization efforts that are largely financed by private investors? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

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