Why I'm Voting For Pot Legalization (Issue 3) in Ohio

It's not a perfect law by any stretch, but it would mean the end of the war on pot


Daily Beast

Update (November 4, 2015): Issue 3 got whipped at the polls, losing by a 2-to-1 margin. Read my new piece, "Despite All of Issue 3's Flaws, It Still Felt GREAT Voting for Legal Pot in Ohio."

Although Election Day is tomorrow, I've already mailed in my absentee ballot in Ohio, which could become the fifth state—and by far the most populous—to legalize marijuana.

Issue 3 is a proposed constitutional amendment that woud allow residents to grow their own weed and create up to 10 "Marijuana Growth, Cultivation and Extraction" (MGCE) facilities or growing zones that would hold exclusive rights on commercial cultivation. It would authorize up to 1,100 retail outlets as well.

Legal pot! In OHIO—a state as middle of the road as it gets—no less! And yet, Issue 3 is repugnant to many pro-legalizers because of those MGCEs. As Jacob Sullum notes, two of the biggest pro-pot groups, Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, have remained "neutral" on Issue 3 (other reform groups, including NORML and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [LEAP] actively support it). Buckeye State media, which has almost universally weighed in against Issue 3, is fulled with comments from hippie types disparaging corporate and "monopoly" weed.

"It's disgusting to me," the head of the pro-legalization group Ohioans to End Prohibition told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "The idea that any group or corporation has the exclusive right to grow marijuana and sell it. It's not plutonium. It's an agricultural commodity that should be regulated like one."

You get the picture. As I write in a new Daily Beast column,

I totally agree with that sentiment and would prefer a true open market in pot.

However, at the same time, there are political realities and social dynamics to consider. As Ian James, the director of Responsible Ohio, the group organizing the campaign for Issue 3, told NPR, "We are Ohio, folks. We're not a blue state or a red state. We're a very purple, middle-of-the-road state…. And that requires that you have a middle-of-the-road approach that doesn't always sit well with the right and it doesn't always sit well with the left."

Allowing 10 entrants into a market is hardly the textbook definition of "monopoly," especially when home growing is a legal alternative. More to the point, perhaps, limits on growing options can always be changed. It seems to me that the best course of action is to legalize now and reform later aspects of the law that don't work or offend for other reasons.

Read the whole thing here.

In this case, at least for me, the gulf between legal and illegal is far wider than the gulf between "monopoly pot" and a wide-open marketplace. And again, we're talking about 10 growing zones, which would be allowed to contract out portions of their MGCEs, so there could be more than 10 producers.

Purists might want to consider that Ohio has highly restrictive casino gambling that is far more injurious to free-market principles than Issue 3 and the state ldoles out the number and location of liquor stores not by market forces but by arbitrary bureaucratic rule. For god's sake, you can't even legally purchase fireworks for use in Ohio (you have to sign an "affidavit" saying you'll take them out of the state within 48 hours)! How many people refuse to gamble or drink in Ohio or light off M-80s until stupid, onerous regulations on those "vices" are lifted?

Laid across this all like a fire blanket is Issue 2, another constitutional amendment, that would invalidate Issue 3. Placed on the ballot the state legislature, Issue 2 cynically invalidates any law by which the state can grant legal monopolies to private interests. It's cynical because it is largely the creation of anti-drug forces in the state and while broadly written to incorporate a solid principle, it's clearly designed as a tool for gutting Issue 3. If both laws pass, there will be a major legal battle over which constitutional amendment takes precedence. As it stands, polls have showed majorities supporting both Issue 2 and Issue 3 (oh, Ohio voters!), though some polls also show support for Issue 3 topping out only in the mid-40s.

I for one hope Issue 3 passes. Legalizing pot, even under less than ideal circumstances, is not a small thing. It would represent a major step forward, especially in a place such as Ohio, a state that as much as or more than any other represents heartland America and "normalcy." Ohio could be the hill upon which pot prohibition dies.

Indeed, if marijuana can be legalized in Ohio, it can—and will be—legalized everywhere and the war on pot is effectively over.

I understand (and agree with) the arguments against Issue 3 coming from the pro-legalization movement and I'm certainly not telling anyone how to vote (or even whether to vote). But this strikes me as a classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. And I can tell you that, on a purely personal level, it felt great to finally vote for legalizing marijuana, even if it should never have been prohibited in the first place.

NEXT: Prescribing Patients the Drugs They Want Is Not Murder

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  1. The gorw-your-own option really saves it, I think. If possession is legalized and there is a way to get it outside of the state monopoly, it’s an enormous improvement.

    1. The gorw-your-own option really saves it, I think

      The “grow your own option”, as set out by the law, is total garbage. If you’re a person that’s skeptical of government, there’s absolutely no reason to put yourself on that list.

      1. You have to put yourself on a list? Fuck that then.

        Still probably better than the status quo.

        1. Yeah I’d say it is. I’m going to vote yes, grudgingly.

          1. We didn’t vote against the legalization of marijuana in our state. We voted against a MONOPOLY of the growing of marijuana in our state. I am absolutely positive if they allow complete freedom, we WILL vote to legalize. But NO MONOPOLY.

            As of now, marijuana money is going into the wrong hands. Marijuana is stronger and easier to get than ever before, albeit much more expensive than it should be? and all that money is going back to the cartels!

            To smoke casually from the “black market”, it will run you $100/month. This is much more expensive than it needs to be. More expensive than my cell phone ($20/month from Tmobile), car insurance ($25/month from Insurance Panda), netflix ($10/month), and gym ($15/month) COMBINED!!! Would you rather put money into the hands of violent gangs and drug dealers? or into taxes for schools, hospitals, public infrastructure, etc.???

            This is why marijuana needs to be legalized via a SMART legalization bill, not the one we saw here in Ohio! We love Marijuana, but not enough to vote for monopolizing anything!

      2. What is garbage about it?

      3. What is garbage about it?

        1. If you bothered to read, you’d know that you have to put yourself on a government registry of growers. You must apply for a license to grow a minuscule amount of pot and submit yourself to bureaucratic oversight administered by local law enforcement, forfeiting your 4th Amendment rights.

          It’s designed to keep small-time growers on a short leash and promote the monopoly/cartel.

          1. Blech. That sounds nearly as bad as becoming a Title II manufacturer under the NFA. Only you’re surrendering your 4th amendment rights to the DEA, not the ATF. I’m not sure which is worse.

            1. Subject your self to FBI rejects? Both scenarios are equally bad.

          2. While I agree with your sentiment that the mandated registration and unwarranted random gov’t searches of your home are complete garbage, and personally feel that folks should be able to grow as much as they want, in what world is 8 ounces a miniscule amount? Are you Willie Nelson incarnate?

            1. in what world is 8 ounces a miniscule amount? Are you Willie Nelson incarnate?

              Your ignorance is hanging out of your pants.

  2. I’m dubious Gillespie actually lives in Ohio anymore. VOTER FRAUD.

    1. Home is wherever he hangs his jacket.

      1. Ahem, it’s The Jacket.

        1. You must mean his Smoking Jacket…

  3. And it’s worth mentioning that the “home grow” alternative, actually requires that you file for a growing license with the state (think gun registry for pot) to be able to grow something like 4 plants, and you’re basically giving up your 4th Amendment rights so that the state can come in a conduct bureaucratic searches inspections to verify that you’re only growing the minuscule limit. Only an idiot would put themselves on that list which have no doubt, if the feds decided to start cracking heads, that’s where they’d start.

    Not to mention local law enforcement that looks upon the law with hostile suspicion, will know exactly whom in their town needs to be watched and jailed at the first slip up.

    The only benefit from this law is that you won’t be jailed for tiny amounts of pot found on your person, the rest of this law stinks to high hell.

    1. I’m sure many people would gladly sign up for that list if it means getting the medical treatment they need. You would deny them that choice?

      1. Who said I’d “deny them that choice”? I’d deny them nothing, as opposed to this law which denies them plenty.

      2. brian0918 – People are free to move to states who have legalized medical cannabis. If cannabis is your only and best option, there have 24 states since 1996 providing a medical solution. That’s almost 20 years of availability and choosing to stay in Ohio. Don’t put that on folks vote NO.

  4. Buckeye State media, which has almost universally weighed in against Issue 3, is fulled with comments from hippie types disparaging corporate and “monopoly” weed.

    that is far more injurious to free-market principles than Issue 3 and the state ldoles out the number and location of liquor stores

    Come on now Nick, didn’t you used to be an English teacher or something?

    1. Prufreading is for loosers.

  5. I am on OH resident as well, and this initiative, like most driven by special interests (maybe that’s all of them), is mixed at best. Should we restrain the destructive WOD at the cost of further promoting crony capitalism? Not an easy call.

    1. Cronyism will promote itself regardless of whether or not we involve ourselves in the process. Cronyism runs everything. If we can get a little freedom out of it, it’s better than nothing.

  6. So if both Issues 2 & 3 are approved, wouldn’t Issue 2 just cancel out the monopolistic/oligarchistic parts of Issue 3? I’m not seeing anything in the Issue 2 wording that’s prohibiting individuals from growing or possessing their own cannabis, so at least Ohioans would still have that.

    1. While I couldn’t begin to list all the reasons I’m glad not to be an Ohio resident* this election offers a few more. I couldn’t NOT vote for Issue 2 but I’d have to abstain on Issue 3.

      (* It can be a “nice place to visit”. I spent an enjoyable Sunday at the Stern-wheeler festival in Marietta this September)

    2. Thomas-

      No. If Issue 2 passes, Issue 3 is completely voided…

      1. Actually, if both 2 and 3 pass, the whole issue goes to the courts, and NOBOBY knows what will happen.

    3. My analysis (which depends on my understanding of the language legally, which could be wrong) last week of issue 2 says despite appearances, it’s bad all around. Issue 3 I’d favor regardless, because like Nick I believe even monopoly is far, far better than zeropoly. However, issue 2 seems to work only against voter intitiatives to amend the constitution in ways that allow exclusive licensure of things that’d otherwise simply be illegal, not against initiatives (or other means) to amend it in ways that provide for exclusive licensure of things for which non-exclusive licensure (or no requirement of licensure) is already available. So issue 2 would always be bad, regardless of issue 3, because you’re always better off moving from permission for none to permission for some.

  7. Take a bow Nick, this is a truly wonderful self-examination on these issues. I appreciate the conflict you worked through to arrive at the vote you did. And behalf of my fellow disabled, thank you for not having us wait any longer.

  8. Thank you so much for posting an article based on fact. Great Article!

    Vote YES for issue 3

    Vote NO for issue 2

  9. State Issue 2 would not preclude marijuana legalization. This issue will only override Issue 3 if it gets more votes than Issue 3, and even then, litigation is likely to preclude that effect.
    Issue 2 is the result of a questionable political process. Only after those supporting the marijuana amendment submitted their signatures did the Ohio General Assembly spring into action, and change rules in midstream. If legislators are successful on this occasion, there is nothing stopping them from again laying in the weeds and changing the rules of the game once any citizen initiative is completed.

    Issue 2 would allow the Ballot Board to stifle any Initiative. “The opinion of the Ohio ballot board,” without judicial review, determines whether the Ballot Board can impose additional hurdles on citizen initiatives. No standards or criteria are specified other than the Ballot Board’s “opinion.”

  10. State Issue 2, introduced as an attack on the marijuana legalization effort of State Issue 3, proposes to amend Section 1e of Article II of the Ohio Constitution to specify numerous purposes for which “the power of the initiative shall not be used.” (The “initiative” refers to the people, through submission of petitions, to place issues on the ballot). Those include granting or creating a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel; but also include specifying or determining a tax rate.

    Issues that are deemed to violate the new limits, in the opinion of the Ohio Ballot Board, will be required to win an extra election before they can be added to the Ohio Constitution.
    There has been very little public debate on the issue leading up to the election, and many citizens are largely unaware of the details of proposed amendment.

    Accordingly, in its Policy Briefing on State Issue 2, released today, the 1851 Center explained the following:
    State Issue 2 is not an “anti-monopoly amendment.” The Ohio General Assembly will be left entirely free to create monopoles and rejected language that would have tied its own hands.
    State Issue 2 precludes tax reform instead of monopolies. While Issue 2 would not stop government from creating monopolies, it would stop citizens from initiating tax reform. Ohioans would be prohibited from using the initiative to eliminate or reduce any state or local income tax, severance tax, sales tax, property tax, or other tax.

  11. “The messaging behind State Issue 2 appears to be built upon the mistruths that it prevents monopolies and would stop the proposed marijuana monopoly if enacted ? ? neither is accurate: this issue is simply an attack on Ohioans’ initiative rights,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “Issue 2 simply proposes that legislators should have a monopoly on the power to create monopolies. This change would simply force special interests to fund politicians’ campaigns, rather than directly promoting their issues to the public.”

    Ohioans appear particularly unaware that the proposed amendment would eliminate their ability to use the initiative to advance any number of issues having nothing to do with monopolies, including any effort at tax reform, since the proposal would stifle an amendment that would “specify or determine a tax rate.”

  12. Nationwide, it has been proven that the citizen initiative is the most effective method of reforming excessive state and local taxes, which Ohio certainly maintains. Because current political leadership has proved unwilling to tackle these problems, Ohioans will need the initiative in the future.

  13. I’ve been going back and forth in my own mind about this one. The “perfect-the-enemy-of-the-good” argument is reasonable, but I just wonder whether Issue 3 even counts as good, with how much extra government it drags in. I totally respect your argument for 3, but I may still vote against it just based on the fact that it is putting this special-interest malarkey in the state constitution as a condition for doing the right thing.

    The widespread support for issue 2 is irritating me, as do most attempts to make a law to prevent us from making bad laws.

    1. Considering the reduction in arrests, prosecution, and incarceration that should result from this, does it on balance actually increase the amount of government, or reduce it?

    2. I would vote for it, despite it’s many bad aspects. More government is bad. Punishing people for non-crimes is worse. I couldn’t vote against anything, bad as it may be, that would keep innocent people out of the criminal justice system.

    3. Like Mike Hihn, I’m pro-freedom, not anti-gov’t. Reducing 1 increases the other in many cases, but not all. I’d rather have a bureaucracy w the power to give permission to do something than for that something to be universally illegal.

      Imagine for instance amending state & federal pharmacy laws to simply outlaw all commerce in drugs. Poof! go FDA & state pharmacy boards. Instead, all the drug stores are closed. Better?

  14. Allowing 10 entrants into a market is hardly the textbook definition of “monopoly,” especially when home growing is a legal alternative.

    Yeah it might properly be called a “cartel” if you want to be pedantic. But even in this case, it’s still a monopoly when ALL of those ten entrants are the shareholders and investors of the ResponsibleOhio campaign.

    If we were to operate off your definition of a “monopoly” Nick, then if Ford Motor Company were granted exclusive rights to manufacture and sell cars in the United States, you couldn’t call it a “monopoly” because they have numerous investors and more than one factory.

    And the homegrow option is not much of an alternative, it’s designed to look like an alternative.

    1. This is where I was going to go. It doesn’t necessarily allow 10 entrants to the market. It allows 10 places to commercially farm weed. It doesn’t say they can’t be owned by the same entity.

      In fact, if it mandated that they not be owned by the same entity, that would be a vast improvement.

      Still, as it is… I think it’s probably a vast improvement over the state of things as they are now.

      1. It actually specifies that all 10 sites be owned by the same entity, ResponsibleOhio.

      2. if it mandated that they not be owned by the same entity, that would be a vast improvement.

        No way. Were we better off w the ownership controls on b’casting stns.? If some mergers improve biz & service, why not? Meanwhile radio & TV gained variety when entities were allowed to own more outlets, & to own them in cities where they also owned the newspapers.

        1. That’s actually a terrible example since limitations on bandwidth that existed prior to sophisticated broadcast encryption made for a “natural monopoly” of radio and TV broadcasters. Conversely agricultural products are about as different from that sort of ‘natural monopoly’ as can possibly be.

  15. Sorry, Nick, hate let some air out of the Libertarian Moment, but “legalized” marijuana does not lead to “an end” to the war on pot.

    RENTON, Wash. — A suspected multi-million dollar marijuana growing operation has been shutdown and thousands of dollars in cash were seized. The operation used homes in residential neighborhoods to grow and manufacture marijuana.

    A special police task force involving 60 officers moved in an seized $2 million worth of processed marijuana and marijuana plants. They also seized $440,000 in cash and eight vehicles, including two luxury SUV’s.…..42961.html

    1. Even though marijuana is now legal, this crackdown is still seen as critical.

      “And the kinds of people who are helping run these types of enterprises are criminals and I don’t think anybody wants those people in their neighborhoods,” Liebman said.

      Police say they expect to make more arrests in this very sophisticated operation done basically right out in the open.


  16. Why Nick? Because being a tax criminal is better than being a Prohibition criminal.

  17. The Alcohol Prohibition model was to focus efforts on suppliers and public (speakeasy) consumers. Which is just what we are getting these days.

  18. I’m with you, Nick. While I would prefer no monopolies, home growing is allowed.

    It’s a shame I’ll likely have to wait until 2017 before I can legally plant it in my garden.

    1. Hopefully the cops will start ignoring a little thing like a pot patch next to your tomatoes.

  19. As long as Pot is a labeled a controlled substance under Federal Law, there will be a “war on pot”.

  20. I could hold my nose and vote for Issue 3 IF it were not for the fact that it’s a constitutional amendment, which may only be modified with another such amendment. The comparison to our onerous casino amendment is on point. It is also hardwired into our constitution and it, too, can only be changed with another such amendment. The problem is that both the casino amendment and Issue 3 create lavishly-funded interest groups that will spend millions in the future to fight any modification of their privilege. If this passes, we’ll be stuck with it forever. Twenty years from now, Ohioans will still be getting jailed for growing too much on their own or doing it without the required and expensive license while the rest of the country enjoys a free market in cannabis.

  21. By the way, for what it’s worth, both the Libertarian Party of Ohio and the Ohio Green Party, staunch supporters of ending the War on Drugs, are among the groups urging a NO vote on Issue 3. Both parties also oppose Issue 2.

    1. This is why I am a small-l libertarian; I like to get things done, as Hillary has said about her extreme progressivism. If a constitutional amendment doesn’t require a supermajority, as it apparently doesn’t in Ohio, then I don’t see it as a huge problem. It is bad, because the entrenched oligarchs will be a concentrated interest that will have a choice theory incentive to spend disproportionally. I agree with you there. But stopping criminal prosecution now has to be a high priority, as does showing the skeptics in the public that legalization won’t result in Ohio’s destruction.

  22. reason is making itself more irrelevant by the day.

  23. The casino amendment was written pretty much the exact same way as issue 3 was before the backers of issue 2 tinkered with the wording. We gave four insanely rich people exclusive rights to the four casinos in Ohio. But we gave them them their casino cartel that can never be broken up. No one said anything then and no one is saying anything about it now even though these four people still have this monopoly and will have it until the day they die. That deal is ALOT worse than just granting 10 people exclusive rights for only four years. And after four years the so called monopoly of Responsible Ohio is going to be completely broken up and we will all have an equal chance at coming up with our own millions of dollars to build our own marijuana factory in the state. They were only given this four years so the investors make a couple million dollars of their money back which is completely sensible.

    1. Tim,could you please reference where you got that “after four years the so called monopoly of Responsible Ohio is going to be completely broken up”

  24. There was no insane neverending outlash from the government and it’s new outlets about the casino amendment being a monopoly even though it was and is more of a monopoly than Responsible Ohio will ever be. The reason why the casino amendment was not labeled a monopoly before it was put onto the ballot was because it was an initiative driven by our state legislature. The state wanted the casinos, they wanted the casino monopoly. The casino monopoly is backed by them and the state legislatures directly profit from it and only they do. Ohio casino industry is a monopoly controlled only by four wealthy investors who are best friends with the state legislatures behind issue 2 and the misinterpretation of issue 3. The casino monopoly has been enshrined into the constitution and is written in a way that none of us can ever come up with the millions of dollars to build our own casino in Ohio. The reason why issue 3 was falsely identified as a monopoly was because it was the first citizen driven initiative this state has ever seen. The state did not ever want marijuana legalized, it was never part of their agenda.

    1. The citizen initiative common to the West is what got pot legalized in Colorado, and its absence has kept NY in the dark ages, even though a majority of voters polled support legalization. Hopefully the medicinal law going into effect in January will work out to be better than originally drafted.

  25. I’m voting YES for issue 3 and NO for issue 2 just like everyone I know is. It’s pretty awful to find out that there are still a couple of internet loners out there still lying and bad mouthing the majority of Ohio. I know there are still a ton of negative articles about what is right for Ohio but you all have to understand that our media is one hundred percent controlled by our government, the people who are behind issue 2 and the rewording of issue 3. All the news outlets are horribly afraid to lash out about the state governments evil doings and lies because they are looking after their own profits. If they go against the government they will lose advertising and money.

  26. Regardless of all these insane, biased, one sided articles, the majority of Ohio has not been fooled. I see that the majority of the people leaving comments have not bought the lies and are going to do the right thing. A poll WOTL conducted yesterday showed support of issue 3 is at 65% while non support of it is only at 28%. We will get issue 3 passed and we will turn down issue 2. We know better and we know what’s good for everyone. We will forgive our brothers and sisters who have been taken advantage of by our government and we will all legally smoke together in harmony after issue 3 goes into effect. We will forget about all this racist bigotry some of you have put us through. It’s ok, we understand, the government got the best of you. But we are here to help you to get their demons out of your head. For those of you that have not been exposed to the truth, you will thank us later, you will owe your life to us. We will have saved you from making the biggest mistake of you have ever made by unknowingly letting our state government do the worst thing to it’s citizens any state ever has in the history of the United States of America. If passed, issue two will be the most severe one time power grab a state government has EVER gotten away with. The citizens of Ohio will have LESS rights than any of the other states in the union.

    Vote NO for issue 2

    Vote YES for issue 3

  27. I hope tonight I’ll be enjoying my last illegal smile!

    YES on 3! ( and save me from the horrible pain of my glaucoma)

  28. But in regards, to this article, I am very glad to see it. Nick Gillespie created an article based on truth and it actually was at the top of google search for a short while. Hopefully it gets back up there and rises above all the lies. I’m so sick of having to sift through articles and articles of pure filth. All the media is doing is covering the truth with biased one-sided lies over and over again. They are only trying to mock us and make fun of us. Don’t let the media turn us into the laughing stock of the nation.

    Vote NO for issue 2

    Vote YES for issue 3

  29. No more taxed or regulated than tomatoes.

  30. I grow my own untaxed and unregulated reefer.

    Fuck the government and double fuck you to Obama and Biden.

  31. Eh, I’d don’t partake, but I’d rather wait a year, and end up with something better (still not necessarily perfect) than than the current loaded issue :

    1. this is completely fake. Ohio is not listed as one of the states that is going to have a marijuana initiative next year. This is your only chance you will ever have. And if we mistakenly vote in issue 2 we won’t be able to improve our tax system in Ohio either which is crippling the states economy.

  32. Tim Reese, can you tell us why the Libertarian Party of Ohio Opposes both Issue 2 AND Issue 3?

    Also you stated above that “after four years the so called monopoly of Responsible Ohio is going to be completely broken up”
    Could you please reference where you got this?

  33. Let the good times roll.

  34. I think Nick’s points are valid and think Ohioans in favor of legalization should support it. We need to be libertarians who get things done!

  35. Very disappointed Ohioan to read this here of all placed. Just voted no.

  36. Nick,

    You just voted for changing the form of Prohibition. You did not end it. Ending it means:

    No more taxed or regulated than tomatoes. Or “no law”.

  37. Voting is running 65 to 35 against.…..ts_20.html

  38. Issue 2 is passing.…..o_iss.html

    The pot folks behind Issue 3 have totally screwed the pooch.

  39. I voted with you on this, Nick, and I’m highly disappointed at the result.

    Here’s the most viable next step:

    From reading it this morning, it appears to be a re-packaging of the OTEP (Ohioans To End Prohibition) amendment.

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