This week at the ballot box, Ohioans will weigh in on two important issues impacting our state’s future. I urge you to exercise your right to vote and would like to share with you why I strongly encourage a Yes vote on Issue 2 and a No vote on Issue 3.
Proponents of Issue 3 frame the decision facing voters as a simple vote on marijuana legalization. A closer look, however, reveals a textbook case of why we must always read the fine print.
The fact of the matter is that legalization is not the primary question posed by Issue 3. Instead, it is a question of whether we should allow a group of rich investors to insert a state-sanctioned drug cartel in the Ohio Constitution.
Under the Issue 3 proposal, Ohio would recognize ten legal marijuana growing sites for exclusive commercial production – all of which would be controlled by an elite group of investors bankrolling Issue 3. Conveniently, this arrangement provides those investors with sole control over all commercial marijuana production in the state.
Issue 3’s main flaw is that it’s not a simple vote on whether to legalize the drug. Instead, legalization is a convenient vehicle used to create a constitutionally-protected revenue stream. This reality prompts an important question about the Constitution’s purpose: should it provide special rights for the wealthy? I believe the answer is a resounding “no”.
Another significant weakness is that Issue 3’s poor regulatory structure will harm our local communities.
First, it allows more than 1,100 pot shops to be opened throughout Ohio, without offering any means to adjust that limit. That means there could be more marijuana stores on local street corners than McDonalds and Starbucks combined.
Proponents dispute this reality by claiming that Issue 3 would prevent pot dispensaries from opening within 1000 feet of churches, daycares, and schools. This claim is disingenuous because that prohibition would only apply to these facilities if they existed before January of 2015. In practical terms, these rules will become progressively weaker as new neighborhoods are developed, churches are built, and playgrounds are erected – these shops will appear in our local communities.
Issue 3 also places no limit on the types of products that marijuana outlets can sell. Ohioans can expect to see scented candles, lollipops, and gummy bears on store shelves. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control states that roughly 45 percent of Colorado’s marijuana sales are made up of edible products and there is no reason to believe the same will not happen here.
Finally, Issue 3’s status as a constitutional amendment means that the legislature will have reduced oversight over the new marijuana industry. Everything from the measure’s low tax rate to the high number of potential stores could not be altered by the General Assembly because Issue 3 would enshrine their special interest in our constitution. We would be stuck with the regulatory scheme crafted by Issue 3’s wealthy investors, regardless of how it turns out.
The bottom line is that Issue 3 was written by its investors for maximum financial benefit. Minimal regulations and low accountability show that these individuals are far more interested in lining their pockets than they are with helping the greater good. What voters need to know is that a vote in favor of the measure will create a state-sanctioned drug cartel.
Equally as important, Issue 2 should limit this problem in the future. Groups who are asking to implement a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel must ask voters two questions: (1) whether to accept such an arrangement and (2) whether the specific issue should pass. Issue 2 does not stop Ohioans from placing a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel in the constitution; it simply guarantees that they will have all the information needed to make an informed choice when answering the two necessary questions.
In the end, Issue 3 is a bad deal for Ohioans because it satisfies the needs of small group of elite investors over the needs of the citizens of Ohio. The Ohio Constitution is a document which guarantees the rights of all Ohioans; it does not grant special rights to special interests.
Exercise your right this Tuesday and vote to protect Ohioans and our Constitution from special interests and drug cartels. Vote “Yes” on Issue 2 and “No” on Issue 3.
The writer represents Ohio’s 12th Senate District, which encompasses all of Allen, Champaign, Mercer, and Shelby Counties as well as portions of Auglaize, Darke, and Logan Counties. He currently serves as president of the Ohio Senate. Learn more at www.OhioSenate.gov/Faber.