A group pushing a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Ohio took a big step towards clearing a hurdle and being placed on the November ballot. The pro-marijuana group has submitted more the double the amount of signatures they need in order to qualify for ballot access.
The pro-marijuana group, ResponsibleOhio, submitted 695,273 names on a petition to Secretary of State Jon Husted. The signatures will likely place a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot to legalize marijuana for personal and medicinal use for those in the state for those adults over the age of 21.
ResponsibleOhio only needed 305,591 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Obviously, these signatures still need to be verified, but it appears there’s a good chance Ohio will be voting on marijuana legalization this November.
However, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding this ballot initiative. The group behind this plan, ResponsibleOhio, has upset many in the pro-marijuana crowd by pursuing a plan that favors big money interests and effectively cartelizes the marijuana market place.
Three months ago I reported how ResponsibleOhio planned to essentially purchase control of the legal weed market in Ohio. ResponsibleOhio is not a grassroots organization. The financial backing originates from a group of wealthy investors. These wealthy elites intend to spend $20 million towards financing the ballot campaign. After the law is passed, they plan on investing another $20 million in developing ten marijuana farms across the state. The ballot initiative would restrict the growing of marijuana on the commercial level to only those ten farms, thus granting the wealthy group behind ResponsibleOhio monopoly control of the market and a major portion of the immense profits expected to flow from the billion dollar market.
State legislators are trying to come to an agreement on a plan that would derail this crony scheme.
House Joint Resolution 4 was being hurriedly negotiated as both the Senate and House were on hold awaiting a resolution to the issue. If an agreement is reached, it would presumably be approved by the Senate and return to the House for a concurrence vote on changes. It would then be sent to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
The legislature is expected break for a summer recess after today, but could be called back if necessary.
As originally drafted, the joint resolution would make it more difficult for a “monopoly or special economic interest” to submit a proposed amendment to the state constitution. Such a proposal would have to go to the voters in two separate elections – once to bypass the monopoly provision and a second time for a vote on the proposal itself.
The state legislators probably have their heart in the right place, but the issue they are trying to solve runs much deeper.
Essentially, these wealthy investors are using their wealth to hijack a ballot initiative. They aren’t breaking the law, but instead are using the democratic process as a tool to write a law that essentially grants them monopoly control of an entire industry. If this ballot initiative passes, then this group of people will effectively become another arm of the state government. They will be legally permitted to operate in a similar fashion to state governments that control the distribution and sale of liquor (hello Pennsylvania!)
I would be remiss if I neglected to recognize some of the positive aspects of this initiative. For one, criminals would no longer be locked in a cage for simply possessing a plant. Additionally, the law does permit individuals to grow their own plants for personal uses. But these few good aspects are not enough to make up for the “privatized” coercion this initiative would legalize.
This ballot initiative represents so much of what is wrong with this country. Only a small percentage of the population understands that the use of coercion by governments is immoral. On top of that, even less recognize the multitudes of corporations that have aligned themselves with the government and thus are for all intents and purposes have become an arm of the government.
It’s a good thing that people want to stop locking people in cages for possessing or smoking a plant. However, it is frustrating to see so many of those same people eager to allow a corporation or group of investors to set up a crony marketplace that provides the exclusive ability to use coercive tactics to profit off their fellow-man.
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