Accordiing to a recent survey commissioned by WKYC, the NBC station in Cleveland, most Ohio voters support Issue 3, an initiative on next month's ballot that would legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. The same survey found that most voters also support Issue 2, an initiative aimed at nullifying Issue 3. In fact, most of the voters who favor Issue 2 said they favor Issue 3 as well.
"Somehow, a majority of registered voters supports the legalization initaitive, and a majority supports the initiative that would prohibit legalization from taking effect," writes Kent State political scientist Ryan Claassen, who helped conduct the WKYC poll. Specifically, 56 percent said they'd vote for Issue 3 and 54 percent said they'd vote for Issue 2, while 57 percent of Issue 2 supporters also favored Issue 3.
What gives? As I noted a couple of months ago, Issue 2 was cleverly crafted by prohibitionist legislators to take aim at the most controversial aspect of Issue 3, one that bothers many people who otherwise support legalization: The initiative, which is a consitutional amendment, would establish a commercial cannabis cultivation cartel consisting of Issue 3's financial backers. Issue 2, which is also a constitutional amendment, prohibits the use of the initiative process to enshrine such economic privileges in the state constitution.
Should both initiatives pass, which the WKYC poll suggests is entirely possible, it is not clear what will happen. "The only certainty is litigation," Claassen says. Ordinarily the amendment receiving more votes would prevail, but initiatives placed on the ballot by the state legislature, as Issue 2 was, take effect immediately, whereas initiatives placed on the ballot by petition, as Issue 3 was, take effect 30 days after the election. That suggests Issue 2 would pre-empt Issue 3 even if it received fewer votes. Furthermore, Issue 2 includes a provision that says its passage would invalidate all of Issue 3, not just the part creating a cultivation cartel.
The 56 percent support for legalization in the WKYC survey is about the same (taking into account margins of error) as the 53 percent support found in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in late September and early October. But WKYC notes that voters in off-year elections, when turnout is lower, "tend to be older and more Republican than the eligible electorate." That's relevant to the fate of Issue 3 because support for marijuana legalization is stronger among younger voters and Democrats. In the WKYC poll, 64 percent of 18-to-30-year-olds and 71 percent of 31-to-40-year-olds said they'd vote for Issue 3, compared to 46 percent of 61-to-70-year-olds and just 29 percent of respondents older than 70. There was also a clear partisan difference: 67 percent of Democrats said they'd vote for Issue 3, compared to 45 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents.