Marijuana, monopoly, follow the money


It appears Ohioans will be determining the fate of the marijuana legalization debate in the near future. I am interested to see how direct democracy will work in this situation. I am excited about the freedom of Ohioans to cast a vote regarding their wishes, but remain concerned about recent trends in the use of the initiative. All too often these citizen-driven initiatives are seemingly backed by those who will benefit from a monopoly.

The amendment that currently has the strongest backing is financially supported by several businessmen who would have sole ownership of the marijuana grow houses.

Whether you are for or against the legalization of marijuana, a discussion needs to be held regarding the use of this initiative to create a monopoly. That’s why my colleagues and I want to provide Ohioans an opportunity to stop monopoly amendments and return direct democracy to Ohioans.

The proposed change would only impact laws moving forward and would not impact Ohio’s casinos, which Ohioans approved based on promises that were not kept. When the casino amendment was originally passed, Ohioans were promised four casinos in four specific areas of the state. Each of these would be sizable locations that would generate major revenue for the state and local governments. Now, a few years down the road, few of these promises were ever fully kept, and we should expect the same from any other monopoly proposal.

We clearly should be expecting more when monitoring Ohio’s casino revenues and contributions to local governments based on the promises made years ago. It’s no surprise to me. Many of the casinos were substantially downsized from the proposed plans, and even these smaller facilities are not filled to capacity with gaming stations. Location changes have also significantly stunted revenues and imposed an additional burden on local governments.

For instance, the Columbus casino was not built in the downtown Arena District as originally planned. Instead, it was moved to the edge of the city where foot traffic is minimal. As a result, the City of Columbus has had to provide a bus, at taxpayer expense, attempting to encourage foot traffic to the casino. In addition, Toledo’s proposed casino was significantly scaled back upon further market research and the facility is much smaller than nearby operations in neighboring states.

Experience shows, don’t judge a constitutional monopoly by its cover. It is clear that monopolies in the Ohio Constitution result in Ohioans getting the short end of the stick. Moving forward, we should be working in Ohio to avoid putting monopolies into our Constitution.

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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.

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