Marijuana Legalization Initiative Will Create Monopoly

Cory Ventresca, College junior

To the Editors:

Aaron Pressman’s article in the Sept. 25 edition of the Review, “Issue 3 Will Boost Ohio’s Economy,” failed to take full consideration of the ballot initiative’s many negative qualities. While it is true that the drug war has failed, a broken ballot initiative is not the solution. Contrary to what was claimed in the column, Issue 3 is not “a fairly straightforward marijuana legalization measure similar to those of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.” In those states and the District, the ballot initiatives came from the people through committed non-profits.

Ohio’s Issue 3 is coming to the ballot through the work of a Political Action Committee called ResponsibleOhio, which was only successful in putting the initiative forward after spending nearly $2.5 million in signature collection efforts. That alone wouldn’t be so bad, but as a PAC, ResponsibleOhio isn’t in the public interest. Instead, it’s in the private interest of a select few investors who paid $2 million each to get a piece of the eventual profits. Investors include, among others, Woody Taft, heir to Ohio’s most successful political dynasty.

Another difference that separates Issue 3 from successful legalization measures put forward in other states is that Issue 3 has no support among current government officials. If Issue 3 were to pass, state officials with no impetus to proceed with all deliberative speed could easily derail the implementation process, which would be a waste of taxpayers’ time and money. It’s also worth noting that it isn’t just state officials who oppose Issue 3. Pro-legalization groups Ohioans to End Prohibition, Ohio Families CANN and the Ohio Rights Group all oppose ResponsibleOhio’s initiative for creating a monopoly in the state constitution.

Unfortunately, constitutional monopolies are something that Ohioans have become increasingly familiar with in recent years. Ian James, ResponsibleOhio’s Executive Director, has done this all before. In 2009, James bankrolled a constitutional amendment that legalized casino gambling in almost the exact same way. When moneyed interest groups are able to take over the initiative process from everyday citizens, our system is being corrupted.

Some may make the case that the good outweighs the bad, so long as Issue 3 curbs racially disparate incarceration rates. I would normally agree, but possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is already decriminalized with a maximum fine of $150 and no jail time. If students are concerned about racial justice in drug sentencing, they should look toward Ohio’s rampant heroin epidemic to see where a much larger problem lies.

Like many at Oberlin, I support marijuana legalization. But as an Ohio native, I find the idea of a monopoly in my state’s constitution unconscionable. I cannot tell others how to vote, nor do I want to. However, I urge everyone to strongly consider the implications of voting yes on Issue 3 this November. If it were anything else, would you still be voting in favor of a monopoly? If not, is it really worth making an exception when better alternatives exist?

– Cory Ventresca

College junior