Monday, November 2, 2015

To Weed or Not to Weed? Ohio Voting on Legalized Pot on Tuesday

2015 is my first election back in Ohio, after 20 years away. And though there isn't much on the ballot in this off-year election, short of some local municipalities, Ohio does have a short list of ballot initiatives on the slate. One has to do with voter redistricting, and seems like a no-brainer. The two others seem to have Ohioans rather confused. And have created some odd alliances on both sides.

Marijuana decriminalization--both medical and recreational--is on the ballot, specifically the "Yes on 3" side. It has attracted all sorts of medicinal marijuana supporters, from many different walks of life, not the least of which are the families of patients who could greatly benefit by both the legalized sale of marijuana pharmaceuticals and from the installation of the International Cannabinoid Institute, a medical research facility that would be built only if Issue 3 passes. It's also supported by a large number of people who enjoy recreational marijuana, would like to try it if it were legal, and those of us who simply think pot prohibition is silly in this day and age. In addition, it has the support of those who think that law enforcement and prisoner incarcerations ought to be focused on "real criminals."

Proposed medical marijuana research facility in central Ohio,
International Cannabinoid Institute (ICI).
So, who are the "No on 3" people? That's where it gets a little weirder, and even a little opaque. Some are prohibitionists, oft-times conservative people who adamantly oppose the legalization of marijuana in any form. Some are pro-medical, but anti-recreational (though they rarely give reasons, are scarcely asked why). Some are undoubtedly from the shadowy network of people who currently supply illegal weed to the masses. It's not too much of a stretch to think some are probably also decidedly less savory folks who deal in scarier drugs than weed. Oh yeah, and it includes idealistic stoners.

"What?" you might wonder. Why would (one would think, ordinarily liberal) pot smokers be against legal weed? That has to do with how Issue 3 came to be, who came up with it, how it was funded, how it is worded, and who stands to get rich. It also--oddly, to my way of thinking--hinges upon the word "monopoly." But how did it come to this?

Boiled down, it goes something like this. Advocates have attempted many times to get a legalization plan before the voters, and they've always come up short for one reason or another. This time, a group of investors came together, and devised the 2015 plan, and they got the signatures. The details of the plan are complex, but amount to initially allowing the investors--those who devised the plan--to own the initial grow sites, 10 in all around the state. These grow sites are to be vast, indoor, year-round growing facilities, and they will distribute the product to the various dispensaries around the state. And every citizen over 21 can apply for a license to home grow a set amount for themselves.

By definition, it's not a monopoly, though many have likened it to an oligopoly. This is because the assorted investors (apparently 50 or so individual for the grow sites, many more likely involved in each site) are seen as a cabal, as a single unit. I personally think this is a stretch, and don't see how there would be a lack of competition with so many sites and people involved. And I certainly don't think it sets up any more dire of a situation than we have with virtually any industry, commodity or service in the United States.

Which is why I come back around to wondering, why do pot aficionados suddenly care so much about monopolies? And that makes me wonder even more, who was behind getting that concept, that word, so ingrained in the opposition toolbox? Particularly when you find out that Issue 2, a state-written proposition, was created using the word monopoly, and was crafted to thwart Issue 3. This sets up the strange scenario where Issue 3 could decriminalize pot, and Issue 2 could nullify issue 3 in the same election. Or some other combination of pass/fail, depending upon how the vote goes.

Inside the proposed research facility.
It's got a lot of people confused. Matters aren't helped by the fact that the prohibition side has co-opted the graphics and messaging of the pro-legalization side, down to copying their (possibly ill-advised) cartoon mascot! And let's face it, any time you tell voters to vote "Yes" on one thing and "No" on another, in the same election, you're going to cause some confusion.

Here's my take: Vote Yes on 3, and No on 2. This will legalize medical and recreational use in Ohio. It will decriminalize home grow. It will come with restrictions and guidelines, true. Yes, my friends, to get this on the ballot and through a vote, it had to. Is it perfect? Probably not. But let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, here. Get it legal. Get it moving. Find out what works. Find out what doesn't. Rather than waiting around for a "perfect world" proposition that may never come, put your energies into tweaking and retooling this plan in the future, if necessary. It would be a much more realistic way to go.

Meanwhile, small-time users and home growers won't go to jail. Sick people can get relief, whether they are the doctor-going type or not. Ohio gains tax income, and a potential boon to the economy. And yes, some people will get rich off it. Someone gets rich off of every industry. Be one of them! There will be ample job opportunities, and countless ways to get involved. Were there great odds you were going to own a facility capable of doing this anyway? Would you rather enrich drug dealers and cartels? Really?

Vote Yes on 3, and No on 2

That's my take.

[Full disclosure: I have family members involved in the effort to pass Issue 3, most notably on the medical side. While this has certainly helped sway my opinion on the matter, it has also allowed me to become informed on it, to the point where I believe I'd hold this opinion regardless. Thanks.]

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