Making marijuana legal would create a monopoly of large-scale producers

The organization leading the campaign for the legalization of marijuana in Ohio has filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court challenging, among other things, use of the word “monopoly” in the description of the plan that will appear as State Issue 3 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

ResponsibleOhio should thank its lucky stars that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and other members of the ballot board did not use the word “cartel” to describe the group of investors who will own the 10 mega marijuana farms if Ohioans vote “yes” on legalization. The word “cartel,” used publicly by Ohio Auditor David Yost, is more accurate because State Issue 3 would amend Ohio’s constitution to “endow exclusive rights” to the investor group that’s shelling out $20 million to win over a majority of the voters. The words in quotations were used by the ballot board and are the basis of the lawsuit filed in the high court by ResponsibleOhio.

By a party-line vote of 3-2, the board adopted the summary language to appear on the ballot just before the lengthy text of the entire amendment, according to the Toledo Blade.

Husted and his fellow Republicans on the panel, Senate President Keith Faber of Celina and William N. Morgan, voted to approve the language over the protests of the two Democratic members, state Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent and former state Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland, the Blade reported.

In a statement issued after the lawsuit was filed late last month, Husted stoutly defended the ballot title and language of Issue 3.

“I have an obligation as the state’s chief elections officer to make sure Ohioans understand the decision before them when they enter the voting booth,” he said. “There is no better way to describe State Issue 3 than to say it is a monopoly that grants exclusive rights to a certain group of people – rights that would not be afforded to every other Ohioan.”

Drug trade

Though we agree with the secretary of state, we would suggest that there is better word than “monopoly” – “cartel.” After all, the word is synonymous with the drug trade and is used to describe the many organizations that produce and distribute marijuana and other drugs. The trade has enriched a handful of “families.”

If the legalization of marijuana weren’t such a lucrative endeavor, the investors would not be spending so much money to persuade the voters that permitting Ohioans to use the drug for recreational and medicinal purposes is a good thing.

How lucrative is the endeavor? ResponsibleOhio has projected that residents of the state would purchase more than $2.2 billion in legalized weed annually by 2020. According to an analysis by Gannett Ohio, that would be $271 for every Ohio resident older than 21 who would purchase the drug.

State Issue 3 is wrong on many levels, foremost of which is the creation via the constitution of the monopoly.

For this reason, we have come out strongly and unequivocally in support of State Issue 2, the brainchild of Auditor Yost, that is designed to prohibit monopolies and business interests from being written into the constitution.

With just two months to go to the November general election, ResponsibleOhio (a misnomer if ever there were one) is pulling out all the stops to convince Ohioans that this state would actually benefit from residents 21 and older using the mind-altering drug. Proponents dismiss the concerns voiced by children’s health organizations, business groups, county prosecutors and others. The opponents of State Issue 3 are especially concerned about the wide open sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products such as cookies and candies and other edibles. The danger of the products falling into the hands of children is very real and must not be shrugged off.

The Ohio Supreme Court is to conduct an expedited hearing on ResponsibleOhio’s lawsuit, and it’s quite possible the justices could order Secretary of State Husted and the ballot board to come up with new language for the title and description of the issue.

If they do, the ballot board should follow state Auditor Yost’s lead and use the word “cartel” to describe the investors.

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