You may think it is a horrible idea to legalize marijuana, or you may think there is merit to the concept. Either way, you now have the chance to vote on whether it will happen.
The same thing was true with the legalization of casinos and the ban on smoking in public places. Ohioans had the opportunity to vote yes or no through citizen-initiated amendments to the state constitution.
The passage of Issue 2 will strip voters of some of that power. It hurts the ability of Ohioans to enact important public policy changes when politicians fail to do so. For that reason, we urge a “no” vote on Issue 2 this Nov. 3 election.
State Issue 2 was drawn up by the General Assembly as a back-door way of gunning down Issue 3, which seeks to legalize marijuana. Issue 2 would basically do two things:
• Prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status.
• Prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a commercial interest, right or license that is not available to similarly situated persons or nonpublic entities.
On face value, that may sound fine. No one likes a monopoly, certainly not the kind associated with Issue 3. It will allow just 10 pre-determined companies to grow all the marijuana in the state, should it become legal. To become one of those 10 companies, a $2 million donation had to be made to ResponsibleOhio, the group pushing for legalized marijuana. No statewide bidding process took place.
This newspaper is also urging a “no” vote on Issue 3 (read more about that in this weekend’s Sunday Times-Sentinel) because of the lack of a bidding process. However, we believe educating the public on this matter is a far better alternative than attempting to amend the constitution so residents cannot vote. The same holds true on Issue 2.
Make no mistake, Issue 2 will take power away from the people and vest enormous power in the ballot board. Future proposed constitutional amendments would face a more challenging, two-step process to get on the ballot. The five-member Ohio Ballot Board would have the power to decide which proposed constitutional amendments reach the higher hurdles.
Common Cause Ohio Board Chairman Sam Gresham went as far as to call Issue 2 “a poison pill for democracy” in a written statement to the Columbus Dispatch.
“It’s no surprise that some of the most important political reforms in our nation’s history have been adopted through the citizen’s initiative,” Gresham said. “Oftentimes these initiatives are opposed by some career politicians, even though they serve the public interest.”
He’s right on target.