Its official – ResponsibleOhio has failed. On November 3rd Ohioans took to the polls and voted whether or not to pass Issue 3. It only got 35.9% of the vote, despite the fact that polls have shown Ohio overwhelmingly supports medical marijuana, with an overall majority also supporting recreational legalization. Issue 2, on the other hand, passed with 52% of the vote. Issue 2 is a measure that prevents monopolies from being inserted into the Ohio state constitution, and included text that would have caused major problems for Issue 3 even if it did pass.
The reason it was voted down is pretty obvious: ResponsibleOhio would have essentially created an oligopoly to control the cultivation industry – which is where most of the profits are. And if you control the source of the product, then you essentially dominate the entire industry.
Even marijuana activists in Ohio were almost uniformly opposed to Issue 3. Many have been fighting The Man on marijuana for years. So the prospect of wealthy investors swooping down to throw money at the issue and then cashing in on an Ohio Green Rush was not very appealing to them, to say the least.
So what’s next for pro-legalization voters?
State lawmakers in the Ohio House said they plan to move forward with several bills related to medical marijuana. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Southwest Ohio, told reporters that Republicans plan to take a “measured and methodical approach” to drafting and passing medical marijuana legislation. However, he has stated he has no interest in allowing non-medical use.
One vocal legalization opponent might prove problematic for Statehouse legalization efforts. Gov. John Kasich called recreational marijuana legalization “a terrible idea” and said through a spokesman earlier this year that medical marijuana isn’t the answer for families of children with catastrophic illnesses. Kasich spokesman Joe Andrews later clarified the governor’s position, saying he neither supports nor opposes medical marijuana.
So leaving it up to state lawmakers isn’t very reassuring for those who want to see recreational use legalized as well. Who else can legalization activists turn to? Is there still hope?
Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, said they’ll be back next year with a revised plan. If that plan also awards cultivation licenses to pre-selected people, it’s likely to run afoul of Issue 2, the anti-monopoly amendment that passed Tuesday night with 52 percent of the vote.
In that case, the Ballot Board would likely rule the amendment in violation of the anti-monopoly provision, and ResponsibleOhio would have to persuade voters to say “yes” twice — first on a question to approve the monopoly and then on the actual proposed amendment. This certainly presents another challenge for the group.
Ohioans to End Prohibition, which recently rebranded itself Legalize Ohio 2016, started its recreational and medical marijuana amendment campaign months earlier than planned to show voters they would have another option if Issue 3 failed. Many pro-pot voters who voted ‘no’ on Issue 3 are now looking to Legalize Ohio 2016 to save the day. The group’s President, Sri Kavuru, said Issue 3’s failure has already attracted attention from potential donors, including some Issue 3 investors. Kavuru said Legalize Ohio 2016 plans to spend $12 million on the campaign, including $1 million to collect signatures.
His group is also consulting with legal experts to determine whether Issue 2 would affect its amendment, which outlines a legal marijuana industry and sets tax rates. Kavuru was confident the measure would either be grandfathered in or unaffected but said it’s still early enough to tweak the language to meet the new law. He has also said he isn’t concerned about legislators enacting laws before the November 2016 election, stating:
“Our law covers medical marijuana patients better than any legislation they could put together.”
Let’s take a look at some details from the amendment proposed by Legalize Ohio 2016.
- Marijuana will be legalized both medically and recreational for persons over 21.
- Adults will be able to possess up to 100 grams of marijuana, 500 grams of marijuana infused solids, 2 liters of marijuana infused liquids, and 25 grams of marijuana concentrates. Adults will also be able to possess marijuana and marijuana products in any amount in their homes, provided they themselves cultivate and harvest the marijuana plants from which it came.
- Adults will be able to grow up to 6 mature marijuana plants in a secure area of their property away from public view. If two or more adults live in the same home, they may not grow more than 12 mature marijuana plants combined.
- No license is required for home cultivation.
- Commercial marijuana business licenses will be available and there is no arbitrary cap on the number of licenses that shall be issued. Any adult or corporation will be able to hold multiple licenses and operate multiple businesses across the supply chain. Ohio residents must make up at least one-third of the Board of Directors for any marijuana business. At the point of first sale, marijuana will be taxed at $1 per gram for dried marijuana flowers, $0.25 per gram for marijuana leaves, and $5 per sale of immature marijuana plant. Consumers who are not patients will also pay a 5% retail tax on all purchases of marijuana and marijuana products. The Division of Marijuana Control will have the power to adjust those rates according to inflation as necessary. Taxing by weight rather than price keeps taxes from being too high while the legal marijuana market is in its infancy. That allows Ohio to begin combating the black market immediately by keeping prices relatively low. It also ensures that tax revenues do not dwindle as prices decline during market stabilization. The retail tax ensures growers aren’t shouldering the entire tax burden, which allows Ohio to keep taxes by weight relatively low while still generating significant tax revenues.
- The Ohio Department of Health will begin issuing medical marijuana patient identification cards on March 1, 2017. Any Ohio resident of any age can qualify as a medical marijuana patient. If a minor younger than 18 qualifies for patient status, that minor’s guardian may secure patient status and exercise that minor’s rights on his or her behalf without fear of prosecution. Minors 18 or older may secure patient status themselves.
- Patients will be able to legally possess up to 200 grams of marijuana, up to 1,000 grams of marijuana infused solids, 5 liters of marijuana infused liquids, and 50 grams of marijuana concentrates. Patients will also be able to possess marijuana and marijuana products in any amount in their homes, provided they themselves cultivate and harvest the marijuana plants from which it came. Patients will be able to grow up to 12 mature marijuana plant in a secure area of their property away from public view. If two or more patients live in the same home, they may not grow more than 24 mature marijuana plants combined. If a patient doesn’t have the capability or the resources to grow their own marijuana, two to five patients and/or guardians of patients may form patient groups. Patient groups may designate a caregiver who can legally grow up to 12 marijuana plants for each patient in the patient group. Caregivers cannot operate for profit. If a patient grows on his or her own property, he or she cannot be a member of a patient group, unless that patient is that patient group’s caregiver.
- Employers will not be able to terminate medical marijuana patients’ employment because they test positive for marijuana. Patients will not have to pay retail taxes either.
Sounds pretty good right? Read more about the Legalize Ohio 2016 amendment here.
Let us know what you think about the future of Ohio’s drug policy in the comments below!