Last Tuesday, the national movement towards legalizing marijuana suffered a setback. Voters in Ohio soundly rejected ballot Issue Three. The proposal would have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana. The proposal would have permitted persons 21 or older to buy marijuana in specified quantities. The issue would also have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. The issue also would have established ten sites where marijuana could be grown by private investors. Opponents tagged the plan as a “monopoly.” Recreational marijuana is now legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana is now legal in about half of country. Ohio law professor Daniel Tokaji discusses the vote in this report.
A big question is why Issue 3 failed. Prof. Tokaji says that the biggest problem with the issue was “bad ballot language.” The language on the ballot described the issue as “granting a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.” Prof. Tokaji says that the opponents of the issue got the ballot language they wanted. With that description, he opines, the “yes on 3” supporters had no chance of winning no matter how many millions of dollars they spent urging passage of the issue. Prof. Tokaji says that it is debatable whether a monopoly would have been created. “Oligopoly is probably the more precise term.” The initiative would have authorized ten growing sites.
Another problem with the Ohio issue was that there were people in Ohio who supported legalizing marijuana who opposed Issue 3. Prof. Tokaji says that the designation of ten specific sites for the growth of marijuana was a problem for the issue, even though there would have been authority for a newly-created board to permit new sites to be added after four years. Prof. Tokaji believes that some people were not convinced that such a plan would insure a competitive market. They believed that the authorized growers would “get a windfall, and consumers would pay the price.”
Prof. Tokaji does not believe that the legalization issue will be on the public agenda in Ohio in the near future. The backers of Issue 3 have said they will try again to get voter approval for legalizing marijuana. There is a possibility that legalizing marijuana for medical purpose will be considered in the coming session of the legislature. Prof. Tokaji thinks that “the peculiarities of this particular measure” were responsible for its defeat more than any general public opposition to legalizing marijuana. Although 64% of the public voted “no” on the issue, Prof. Tokaji opines that the answer might well be different if the question were simply whether marijuana should be legalized.
Daniel P. Tokaji is a professor of law at the Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. He is an authority on election law and voting rights. He specializes in election reform, including such topics as voting technology, voter ID, provisional voting, and other subjects addressed by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. He also studies issues of fair representation, including redistricting and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.