Pubdate: Sun, 01 Nov 2015
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Blade
Author: Jim Provance


2nd Statewide Ballot Question Could Nullify Yes Vote for Cannabis

COLUMBUS - Two issues on this week's ballot stand alone, but the fate 
of one may depend on the other.

Ohio is about to make a historic decision on Issue 3. Should the 
state become the first east of Colorado to legalize marijuana for 
recreational, medical, and commercial purposes?

But state voters also have a decision to make on Issue 2. Should 
private individuals have the right to etch their own commercial 
monopolies into the Ohio Constitution?

If Issue 2 passes, the marijuana legalization amendment may never 
take effect, even if voters support it.

Issue 3 is spearheaded by ResponsibleOhio, an organization that has 
reported spending more than $15 million from investors behind 10 
preselected wholesale growth and cultivation facilities to promote 
the issue. One of those growing sites would be on a North Toledo farm.

"After 20 years of state politicians refusing to reform marijuana 
laws to help the chronically ill, they spent 10 days this summer to 
put Issue 2 on the ballot to stop medical marijuana from being 
legalized," said Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio.

"They've done it in the worst possible way," he said. "It takes away 
the rights of voters to put issues on the ballot that they want to 
vote on. They're giving themselves more control over the process and 
voters less control."

But state Rep. Mike Curtin (D., Columbus), one of the sponsors of the 
resolution that put Issue 2 on the ballot, said now is the time for 
Ohioans to take a stand against the writing of lucrative, exclusive 
financial deals into the state constitution. He noted 19 other states 
have anti-monopoly provisions in their constitutions.

"The barbarians are at the gate," he said. "The proposal now known as 
Issue 3 is for an investor-driven market that, by their own 
prospectus, would create a $1 billion per year sales industry for 10 
landowners and their backers. It's as audacious and outrageous a 
proposal as this state has ever seen."

Issue 3 is about more than medical marijuana. It would legalize the 
personal use of pot for anyone over the age of 21 and allow them to 
possess and transport up to an ounce for their own use. They could 
get licenses to grow up to four flowering plants and keep up to 8 
ounces of homegrown stash.

Pot could be used by anyone of any age to treat a debilitating 
medical condition as long as that person has a certificate signed by 
a licensed physician. The state would regulate nonprofit medical 
marijuana dispensaries.

The amendment would build a new wholesale and retail business 
infrastructure around the newly legal product, create a state 
regulatory system, and set up five marijuana-testing facilities, 
including one at an unspecified Wood County location.

Wholesale marijuana sales would be taxed at the rate of 15 percent, 
while pot and other products made from it sold at potentially 1,100 
licensed retail outlets would be taxed at 5 percent, in addition to 
existing state and local taxes. Most of the tax revenue would go to 
local governments.

Issue 2, on the other hand, is a legislative reaction to Issue 3 as 
well as the 2009 amendment that wrote four exclusive casinos, 
including Toledo's Hollywood Casino, into the constitution.

Issue 2 wouldn't prohibit such citizen-initiated monopolies outright, 
but it would make backers jump through more hoops to get there. 
Backers would first have to get voters to waive the monopoly 
prohibition and then get them to approve their specific monopoly in a 
separate question on the same ballot.

The constitution states that if two conflicting amendments on the 
same ballot pass, the one getting more votes "shall" prevail.

Secretary of State Jon Husted and some others, however, have argued 
that, since amendments proposed by the General Assembly take effect 
immediately upon passage, Issue 2 would automatically negate Issue 3, 
a citizen-initiated marijuana amendment, before it could take effect 
30 days later.

Either way, the final decision could rest with the Ohio Supreme 
Court, which has already upheld Mr. Husted's use of the word 
"monopoly" in Issue 3's ballot title.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom