Opposition outweighs support in state associations

There is significant and organized pushback against legalization of marijuana. Besides the local entities that are opposed, many statewide groups have released opposition statements.

On Sept. 24, the Ohio State Bar Association announced it’s support for Issue 2 and opposition to Issue 3. The group said, “We do not believe the Ohio Constitution should be used to implant regulatory specificity’s that were never intended by the framers to be included in our constitution.”

The group continues to say a constitution is “a sacred trust that defines and protects the fundamental rights of the people.”

The group says it takes no position on whether marijuana should be legalized in the state of Ohio. The association just has serious concerns with the manner in which legalization would occur. The group does not believe the Ohio Constitution should be used as a vehicle to create the framework for legalizing and then regulating the production and sale of any product, whether marijuana or otherwise.

The Ohio School Boards Association, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, and Ohio Association of School Business Officials announced a formal stance Aug. 24 against any such amendment.

The “wide-open nature” of the proposed amendment “threatens the health and safety of young people and will have a negative impact on student achievement,” the groups said in a joint release.

“As a proposed constitutional amendment, Issue 3 poses a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ choice to Ohioans,” said OSBA Executive Director Richard Lewis. “This sends the wrong message to young people and poses and actual danger, as has been reported in other states that have legalized marijuana.”

The 1,100 retail marijuana stores allowed under ResponsibleOhio’s proposal gave BASA executive director Kirk Hamilton cause for concern.

“With more marijuana stores than McDonald’s in the state, our children could easily be exposed to marijuana just walking to school,” he said. “Allowing adults 21 and over to possess the equivalent of more than 500 marijuana joints is hardly a ‘limit.’ Some of this marijuana will fall into the hands of our young people.”

A loophole in the amendment would allow pot sellers to open right next to any school, day-care center, library or playground built after Jan. 1, 2015, said OASBO executive director David Varda.

The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) opposes the consumption of marijuana for any purpose, whether for medicinal or recreational use.

In a statement released on Aug. 17, the OSMA said it “sees no healthy lifestyle benefit from using marijuana for recreational purposes. And while there is some clinical research focused on the medicinal benefits of marijuana for specific medical conditions, the OSMA believes additional scientific evidence is needed to fully justify and support the use of this drug as an appropriate form of treatment for specific illnesses. The OSMA does not oppose further appropriate clinical research.”

The County Engineers Association of Ohio opposes legalization.

“Job number one of the county engineer is to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We have way too many problems as it is with Ohioans driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Legalizing marijuana use will only make that worse,” said Fredrick Pausch, County Engineers Association of Ohio executive director.

Ohio Secretary of State John Husted also took umbrage with the proposal, saying it would create a monopoly.

“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 no be afforded to every other Ohioan,” he said in an Aug. 28 statement.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) is encouraging Ohioans to vote yes on Issue 2 and no on Issue 3. The federation says Issue 2 would limit the ability of wealthy special interests to manipulate the state constitution to create a monopoly, grant a commercial right or specify a tax rate for a person or group of persons. Ohio Farm Bureau believes the state constitution should be reserved for outlining specific freedoms and describing how Ohioans govern themselves.

The OFBF says Issue 3 would grant a small group of investors a monopoly on the commercial growing and selling of marijuana. The investors would profit from an industry estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

The Board of Directors for the Ohio AgriBusiness Association is in support of issue 2 and opposed to Issue 3. The group says Issue 2 would prohibit special-interest groups from amending the constitution to guarantee financial profits for themselves through preferential tax rates, commercial rights or special economic privileges not available to similarly situated people or nonpublic agencies.

Issue 3 would grant exclusive rights for the commercial growth, cultivation and sale of marijuana to a small group of wealthy investors in the state, the group said in its statement.

“While a majority of registered voters, when polled, say they would support medicinal marijuana, Issue 3 goes well beyond medicinal purposes,” said OABA President and CEO Chris Henney. “OABA urges a no vote on Issue 3 to put a stop to what would be, in effect, a $1 billion marijuana monopoly for special interest investors that would be insulated from any business competition or act of the Legislature.”