Issue 3 Puts Weed Legalization on Ballot

ResponsibleOhio%2C+a+group+pushing+for+the+legalization+of+marijuana%2C+recently+received+enough+signatures+to+get+its+proposal+on+the+ballot+this+November.+If+passed%2C+Oberlin+will+host+a+testing+facility+and+a+production+plant.

Bryan Rubin

ResponsibleOhio, a group pushing for the legalization of marijuana, recently received enough signatures to get its proposal on the ballot this November. If passed, Oberlin will host a testing facility and a production plant.

Tyler Sloan, News Editor

ResponsibleOhio, a pro-cannabis legalization group, is riding high on the newest addition to the state’s ballot. Ohio residents will decide whether to pass the organization’s Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, commonly known as Issue 3, to legalize medical and recreational cannabis use this November.

Oberlin will play host to one of six statewide testing facilities and one of 10 production plants if the amendment passes.

“College campuses, especially in Ohio, are really hubs of research and innovation,” said ResponsibleOhio Spokesperson Faith Oltman. “Through Issue 3, we want to make Ohio a huge part of innovation for the marijuana industry, and by placing those testing facilities near college campuses we can more easily work with the great research that’s being done at college campuses, and students and researchers who are coming up with ideas for the future.”

Other counties slated to host testing facilities include Athens, Cuyahoga, Mahoning, Scioto and Wood, but Lorain is the only one that would house both testing and production facilities. The amendment mandates that all testing facilities be situated near colleges and universities.

“I think Lorain County stands to benefit tremendously if Issue 3 passes,” said John Pardee, vice president of the Ohio Rights Group. “This is going to bring a ton of jobs, not only just the jobs at the grow center, but also all the insular jobs from dispensaries, manufacturing facilities, transportation, marketing.”

Pardee’s organization is a nonprofit that aims to legalize medicinal, therapeutic and industrial use of marijuana. The activist group attempted to put its own amendment on the ballot for several years, but failed to collect enough signatures to push the initiative forward.

But where the Ohio Rights Group’s efforts floundered, ResponsibleOhio, a group with much more financial backing, flourished. The organization collected the minimum standard of 1,000 petition signatures for the initiative to be filed on March 13, and needed to amass a minimum of 305,591 total signatures by July 1 to be put on November’s ballot.

The group exceeded expectations, reporting a total of 695,273 signatures on June 30.

Testing and production facilities are expected to create 40 new jobs in Lorain County, according to ResponsibleOhio representatives. The organization expressed interest in a 32.78-acre plot of land on State Route 511 and Oberlin Road to City Manager Eric Norenberg back in February. Norenberg said there has been no official offer to purchase the property as of late.

Still, there has been strong pushback against ResponsibleOhio, even from groups that support legalizing marijuana. Opponents of the organization cite its capacity to monopolize Ohio’s entire cannabis market as a reason not to back the amendment.

“It seems like if you have enough money, you can basically get anything on the ballot,” Tony Coder, assistant director of the Drug Free Action Alliance in Ohio, said of ResponsibleOhio and Issue 3. “This is giving 10 investors the ability to have a monopoly on a market through the Ohio constitution.”

Pardee said that the Ohio Rights Group initially shared similar reservations about small businesses being pushed out of the market by ResponsibleOhio, but that the two organizations have been in contact regarding such concerns. Ohio Rights Group has not yet issued an official stance on Issue 3, but is expected to publicize its position soon.

“A lot of people forget the fact that the only thing that’s exclusive are the grow centers,” Pardee added. “All the other opportunities are still wide open for anyone to apply for.”

Spokesperson Oltman added that accusations of ResponsibleOhio creating a monopoly are misguided, and that Issue 3 will realistically create more competition.

“There’s unlimited opportunities for Ohioans to get involved in manufacturing, creating marijuana-infused products,” Oltman said. “For the people who aren’t interested in the commercial side at all and are 21 and older, you can grow up to four plants on your own. A monopoly will never invite you to make your own products.”