Ballot Initiatives Clash as Marijuana Legalization Faces Issue 2 Hurdle


Benjamin Shepherd, Photo editor

Six speakers discuss the pros and cons of Issue 2 and Issue 3 at a panel in Craig Lecture Hall last Tuesday. The two ballot initiatives are highly controversial, as Issue 2 could nullify Issue 3 if they both pass this Election Day.

Jack Rockwell

A ballot initiative that virtually bans monopolies could potentially neutralize Issue 3, the marijuana legalization initiative, if both amendments are approved on Election Day this Tuesday.

Many argue that Issue 3 creates a monopoly on the marijuana industry because it demands that 10 facilities have exclusive rights to commercial production of cannabis and excludes smaller growers from the market. Issue 2 calls for the ballot board to review whether the initiative constitutes a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel and to reject it if it does.

“Issue 2 is premised on the assumption that [Issue 3] should not be used to promote special interests on the Ohio ballot,” said Steven Steinglass, dean emeritus of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.

Issue 2, which was written and fast-tracked onto the ballot by Ohio legislators, arose almost immediately following the introduction of Issue 3. The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative materialized following widespread commercial support for the legislation. ResponsibleOhio, the primary group pushing for marijuana legalization, spearheaded this effort.

Still, Issue 2 has split marijuana legalization advocates. While some argue that legalization should come at any cost, certain factions insist that Issue 2 will allow for better legislation in the long run.

“Issue 2 is important because it prevents future monopolies,” said Sri Kavuru, president and co-founder of Ohioans to End Prohibition and an Issue 2 supporter. “If [Issue] 2 passes and [Issue] 3 fails, which we think will happen, a legalization plan like [Issue 3] will never come back, so we are guaranteed better legalization.”

Interim Vice President of the Ohio Rights Group John Pardee and others spoke in a panel discussion on Issue 2 and Issue 3 at Craig Auditorium last Tuesday. Pardee and others expressed skepticism about the motives of Issue 2 due to legislators’ lack of protest against existing monopolies in the liquor and casino industries.

Steinglass, who also spoke at Tuesday’s panel, said that Ohio’s state constitution provides for direct citizen initiatives, which can be introduced to the ballot in the general elections. He added that if Issue 2 were to pass, future citizen initiatives such as Issue 3 could be blocked more easily, and that this poses a threat to the direct-democracy tool of citizen initiatives.

While there is strong consensus that Issue 2 would neutralize Issue 3, some believe that the language of the amendment might stall its approval. Pardee described Issue 2 as “rushed, poorly written and ripe for legal challenges.”

Whether Issue 3 actually constitutes a monopoly will still be up in the air even if Issue 2 passes. Anthony Giardini, member of the executive committee of the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Campaign Initiative, said at the panel last Tuesday that Issue 3 would hold strong against Issue 2’s legislation.

Still, many believe that because the growth facilities are exclusive to large corporations, longtime legalization advocates who sought to grow on a local level will not be rewarded for their activism. Issue 3 does, however, allow for individuals to grow marijuana plants not for commercial sale.

“There are 10 growth facilities, all of which will be competing with one another to give business to 1,100 retailers in Ohio,” Giardini said. “The word ‘monopoly’ is not in Issue 3, and Issue 3 is not a monopoly.”