Pubdate: Wed, 04 Nov 2015
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Cincinnati Enquirer
Author: Anne Saker


The sheer size of Tuesday's crushing electoral defeat of marijuana 
legalization in the Buckeye State surprised political experts inside 
and out of Ohio. Despite a $20 million campaign, Issue 3 lost. Amid 
its smoking wreckage, six reasons emerge to explain what happened to 
Issue 3 - and what happens next.

The business plan. "Boy, that word monopoly. It's been an ugly word 
in politics since Theodore Roosevelt's day," political scientist 
David Niven at the University of Cincinnati said Tuesday night. Issue 
3 was unique in the history of the modern legalization movement in 
that it would have written into the Ohio Constitution provisions to 
limit the cultivation of the state's crop to 10 already-chosen 
properties. Issue 3's backers said the plan's advantage would have 
been to allow the state to tightly regulate marijuana at the grow 
source. The technical term for such an economic model is oligopoly. 
But the term "monopoly" got slapped on Issue 3 from the outset, and 
Issue 3 backers could never run it down.

Issue 2. The state's political establishment threw everything it 
could to stop Issue 3. The legislature wrote Issue 2 explicitly to 
prevent a "monopoly, oligopoly or cartel" from getting established in 
the state's constitution. Democratic Rep. Mike Curtin of Columbus, 
who calls himself a constitutionalist, wrote Issue 2. Then he helped 
to assemble the key opposition group, Ohioans against Marijuana 
Monopolies, which pulled together nearly 140 groups from around the 
state for the fight including influential groups like the Fraternal 
Order of Police, Chambers of Commerce and a host of health 
organizations. Issue 3 "was extreme," Curtin said. "It was the most 
audacious proposed amendment in the state's history since we had the 
initiative process." Issue 3 backers called Issue 2 an effort to curb 
the initiative process. Voters did not agree and approved Issue 2.

Full legalization vs. medical. The four other states that have 
legalized marijuana so far - Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington 
state - had already established programs to permit people to get 
marijuana to treat various illnesses. Issue 3 asked Ohioans to make a 
huge jump from prohibition to full legalization. Ohioans balked. "We 
are not California. We're not the vanguard of hippiedom," Niven said. 
"It's a leap to go from no legal marijuana to full legal marijuana. 
And it's not the leap that folks have made." Ohioans, though, are 
willing to consider medical marijuana; Curtin said that in debating 
Issue 2 and 3 around the state, he found that voters want to have 
that discussion. Even though the Ohio legislature has refused for 18 
years to consider medical marijuana bills, Curtin said "no doubt" the 
topic will hit the agenda soon.

Off-year election. Ian James, the executive director of 
ResponsibleOhio, is a seasoned Ohio political operative. He said that 
putting legalization on the ballot in an off-year election would be 
less expensive than an even year, and it would guarantee that the 
subject would not be drowned out by other campaigns. But when other 
states have considered marijuana issues, it's always been on even 
year elections to capture the higher turnout. Said Allen St. Pierre, 
executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws: "Asking voters to change something in an off-year 
election, like reforms to marijuana, that's a death knell, when you 
have only 30 percent turnout as opposed to 70 percent turnout in a 
presidential election year."

The movement. Marijuana activists always squabble over legalization 
initiatives. One reason that a 2010 proposition lost in California 
was because the marijuana farmers in the state's "emerald triangle" 
voted it down by 70 percent. Marijuana activists in Ohio were almost 
uniformly opposed to Issue 3. Many of them have been fighting The Man 
on marijuana for years, and the prospect of wealthy investors 
suddenly swooping down to throw money at the issue and then cashing 
in on the Green Rush was galling. Don E. Wirtshafter of Athens, a 
lawyer and longtime activist, called Issue 3 "evil" and campaigned 
against it with a man dressed up as the banker from the Monopoly 
board game. Said NORML's St. Pierre: "To have the Don Wirtshafters or 
progressive liberal columnists saying 'I'm all for marijuana 
legalization, but I don't like this ballot initiative,' for 
activists, there were any number of reasons to oppose it."

Buddie. A cartoonish mascot with the head shaped like a marijuana bud 
did not move the conversation forward. James and Issue 3 supporters 
thought Buddie would be a kitschy, ironic statement for college kids. 
Instead, the character turned off adults who thought Buddie would 
appeal to children. Said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project: 
"I think definitely there were issues with the advertising, with a 
mascot that people didn't really approve of."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom