This fall, voters will get the chance to decide as to whether marijuana will be legal to sell and use in the state of Ohio by voting on State Issue 3. Reaction has been strong on either side of the debate. Local authorities have also weighed in on some potential ramifications should the ballot measure be approved by Ohio voters.
State Representative Robert Sprague says that the organization working to pass the measure, ResponsibleOhio, represents a small group of wealthy investors which, if the ballot measure would pass, would effectively create an oligopoly market for the marijuana as the measure would only allow certain facilities to grow and process marijuana legally.
“They get the exclusive rights to sell marijuana in the State of Ohio which they estimate to be a billion dollar market. So they are going to make a ton of money off of this scheme.” said Sprague
To that end, Sprague said that the Ohio Assembly drafted another ballot measure, State Issue 2 which if also passed would prohibit the creation of monopolistic commercial practices through ballot measures in the State of Ohio. Sprague said that the measure was drafted in direct response to Responsible Ohio and the State Issue 3 measure, but would also prohibit other commercial enterprises from using money and influence to control their markets through ballot measures
“Any large company to have the exclusive right to sell a product in the State of Ohio? They’d love to be able to do that so the bottom line is we’ve got to put a stop to this.” said Sprague
Sprague also noted that State Issue 2 would apply to businesses moving forward and not be retroactively applied to businesses currently in operation in Ohio.
One of the arguments put forth in favor of the legalization of marijuana has been that resources in law enforcement would be freed up to pursue major drug offenses. Hancock County Prosecutor Mark Miller says though that wouldn’t be the case. Citing the recent legalization in Colorado, Miller notes that law enforcement saw major increases in marijuana-related offenses after the measure was passed.
“For the first six months of 2014 they saw a 77% increase in their DUI offenses where marijuana was involved. 42% of those were just marijuana DUI offenses. So I think we’ll see an increase in that.” said Miller.
Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman also noted a potential consequence of the measure would affect drug screens for job applicants. Noting that some employers already have a difficult time finding qualified applicants, that law could adversely impact people who apply for certain kinds of jobs.
“We’re having trouble now finding people that are qualified employees. Other places, if they legalize, if we start taking urine samples for employment how are they going to pass these tests?” said Heldman.
Still, an argument put forth in favor of legalization points to potential tax revenues generated for the State of Ohio should the measure pass. However, Representative Sprague notes that the wording of the measure would absolve the companies that benefit from passage of significant tax burden.
“It’s a 15% tax. The people that drafted this amendment completely absolved themselves of any taxes from the distributions from their companies” said Sprague.
And Sprague notes that even if the people would wish to change the law after passage, they would be prohibited from doing so as the measure is a constitutional amendment.
“Since it’s written in the Ohio Constitution, the General Assembly or the people of the State of Ohio through their elected representatives cannot change that tax structure.” said Sprague.
Ohio voters will decide on both State Issue 2 and State Issue 3 on the ballot on November 3rd.
Click here for more information on State Issue 2.
Click here for more information on State Issue 3.
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