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article imageOhio's Issue 3 pot question shaping up to be a close vote

By Nate Smith     Sep 23, 2015 in Politics
A proposed amendment to the state constitution that would make Ohio the first state east of the Mississippi River to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes appears poised for a Nov. 3 photo finish.
In generic polling, people's attitudes towards pot are easing, as states increasingly are permitting some form of legal access to the drug.
Likewise, a clear majority of Americans tends to support use of the drug for medicinal purposes, and 23 states along with the District of Columbia have already established laws to that end.
However, ballot language that includes the word "monopoly" and efforts to pass the initiative by way of an amendment to Ohio state constitution has divided even some Ohioans that may be generally sympathetic towards legalization.
The most recent polling data from Quinnipiac University on Issue 3 — Ohio's weed legalization measure funded by ResponsibleOhio — shows only narrow majority support for the measure at about 52 per cent.
The Ohio Supreme Court did overturn last week certain elements of the ballot language associated with Issue 3, and tasked Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, along with the Ohio Elections Board, to make plain within the ballot question that marijuana shops would not be permitted within 1,000 feet of libraries, churches, schools or daycare centers; that private residents may possess up to an ounce of purchased marijuana or eight ounces of homegrown product; potential addition of a marijuana cultivation facility after four years; and local control of marijuana retail small businesses.
Still, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the state's election board ballot language that describes Issue 3 as establishing a "monopoly" of 10 investor-backed marijuana farms that would be responsible for growing and distributing all of the commercial cannabis for the state.
Private citizens would be permitted, with proper licenses, to grow no more than four personal plants for their own use.
The nature of the amendment, particularly use of the word "monopoly," has given opponents of the measure an avenue to go after the amendment without having to speak to the issue of marijuana use itself.
Pro-pot Ohioans to End Prohibition is an example of a group supportive of marijuana legalization in Ohio, but in opposition to the Nov. 3 ballot initiative. That group, under a new name of LegalizeOhio 2016 is currently working on what it considers a more entrepreneurial-minded measure for the 2016 ballot.
That Issue 3 severely restricts who may participate in the commercial cultivation of marijuana is also a point of contention for liberal voters and libertarian-minded groups that may otherwise be sympathetic to the cause.
According to ResponsibleOhio estimates, Ohio will generate over $550 million in tax revenue under this legalization plan by 2020.
Even as federal law continues to prohibit weed possession of consumption, states and municipalities continue to legalize access, or decriminalize its possession.
Last week in the northwest Ohio city of Toledo, about 70 per cent of voters passed an initiative to decriminalize marijuana within the city limits. Now, any person caught with under 200 grams of the drug does not stand to face jail time.
Given the shifting public opinion on the issue, one wonders whether the federal government may eventually take up the issue of ending the federal ban on marijuana possession and consumption.
More about Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, marijuana legalization, Legalize marijuana, Prohibition
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