Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Six reasons that Issue 3 crashed and burned in Ohio

Six reasons that Issue 3 crashed and burned
The sheer size of Tuesday’s crushing electoral defeat of marijuana legalization in the Buckeye State surprised political experts inside and out of Ohio. Despite a $20 million campaign, Issue 3 lost. Amid its smoking wreckage, six reasons emerge to explain what happened to Issue 3 – and what happens next.

The business plan. “Boy, that word monopoly. It’s been an ugly word in politics since Theodore Roosevelt’s day,” political scientist David Niven at the University of Cincinnati said Tuesday night. Issue 3 was unique in the history of the modern legalization movement in that it would have written into the Ohio Constitution provisions to limit the cultivation of the state’s crop to 10 already-chosen properties. Issue 3’s backers said the plan’s advantage would have been to allow the state to tightly regulate marijuana at the grow source. The technical term for such an economic model is oligopoly. But the term “monopoly” got slapped on Issue 3 from the outset, and Issue 3 backers could never run it down.Issue 2. The state’s political establishment threw everything it could to stop Issue 3. The legislature wrote Issue 2 explicitly to prevent a “monopoly, oligopoly or cartel” from getting established in the state’s constitution. Democratic Rep. Mike Curtin of Columbus, who calls himself a constitutionalist, wrote Issue 2. Then he helped to assemble the key opposition group, Ohioans against Marijuana Monopolies, which pulled together nearly 140 groups from around the state for the fight including influential groups like the Fraternal Order of Police, Chambers of Commerce and a host of health organizations. Issue 3 “was extreme,” Curtin said. “It was the most audacious proposed amendment in the state’s history since we had the initiative process.” Issue 3 backers called Issue 2 an effort to curb the initiative process. Voters did not agree and approved Issue 2.
Full legalization vs. medical. The four other states that have legalized marijuana so far – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state – had already established programs to permit people to get marijuana to treat various illnesses. Issue 3 asked Ohioans to make a huge jump from prohibition to full legalization. Ohioans balked. “We are not California. We’re not the vanguard of hippiedom,” Niven said. “It’s a leap to go from no legal marijuana to full legal marijuana. And it’s not the leap that folks have made.” Ohioans, though, are willing to consider medical marijuana; Curtin said that in debating Issue 2 and 3 around the state, he found that voters want to have that discussion. Even though the Ohio legislature has refused for 18 years to consider medical marijuana bills, Curtin said “no doubt” the topic will hit the agenda soon.Off-year election. Ian James, the executive director of ResponsibleOhio, is a seasoned Ohio political operative. He said that putting legalization on the ballot in an off-year election would be less expensive than an even year, and it would guarantee that the subject would not be drowned out by other campaigns. But when other states have considered marijuana issues, it’s always been on even year elections to capture the higher turnout. Said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws: “Asking voters to change something in an off-year election, like reforms to marijuana, that’s a death knell, when you have only 30 percent turnout as opposed to 70 percent turnout in a presidential election year.”
The movement. Marijuana activists always squabble over legalization initiatives. One reason that a 2010 proposition lost in California was because the marijuana farmers in the state’s “emerald triangle” voted it down by 70 percent. Marijuana activists in Ohio were almost uniformly opposed to Issue 3. Many of them have been fighting The Man on marijuana for years, and the prospect of wealthy investors suddenly swooping down to throw money at the issue and then cashing in on the Green Rush was galling. Don E. Wirtshafter of Athens, a lawyer and longtime activist, called Issue 3 “evil” and campaigned against it with a man dressed up as the banker from the Monopoly board game. Said NORML’s St. Pierre: “To have the Don Wirtshafters or progressive liberal columnists saying ‘I’m all for marijuana legalization, but I don’t like this ballot initiative,’ for activists, there were any number of reasons to oppose it.”Buddie. A cartoonish mascot with the head shaped like a marijuana bud did not move the conversation forward. James and Issue 3 supporters thought Buddie would be a kitschy, ironic statement for college kids. Instead, the character turned off adults who thought Buddie would appeal to children. Said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project: “I think definitely there were issues with the advertising, with a mascot that people didn’t really approve of.”

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