By Frank Lewis
Proponents of Ohio Issue 3 which legalizes medical and personal use marijuana, believe it is a law whose time has come.
“This is our chance,” Faith Oltman of Responsible Ohio told the Daily Times. “Issue 3 is our one shot to legalize medical marijuana for compassionate care for sick Ohioans and personal use for adults 21 and over. We want Ohio to be a leader and I think people recognize that. We have an opportunity to be the first state east of the Mississippi as a legal personal use market and we will be the 25th state with the medical market. I think people are coming to realize if we don’t do it now it could be a decade or more before legalization comes to Ohio.”
Oltman said Responsible Ohio took up the marijuana legalization issue because, since 1997, former State Representative Bob Hagan has introduced medical marijuana to the general assembly during every session in which he was in office and while the legislature has taken up the question, the current medical marijuana bill has only received a single hearing, giving the impression that it is bogged down.
“We know, through polling, Quinnipiac recently did a poll, and it showed that 90 percent of Ohioans approve and agree with the legalization of medical marijuana, and if you can get 90 percent of Ohioans to agree on anything, that’s pretty impressive,” Oltman said. “And 53 percent of Ohioans support personal use marijuana for adults. So we knew the legislature had refused to act but the will of the people shouldn’t be ignored.”
The proposed amendment to the state constitution would sanction commercial pot growth at 10 predetermined sites.
“Really what it boils down to is, other states who have legalized, have limited grow and that’s so we can make sure that it is strictly regulated and safe,” Oltman said. “So we’re going to start with 10 growers initially. They’re going to be competing against each other and we want to make sure that it is a heavily regulated industry from the get-go.”
Oltman said, after four years, if the first set of growers are not meeting the demand, additional licenses can be added by the Marijuana Control Commission.
Right above Issue 3 on the ballot is Issue 2, which seemingly has the power to derail Issue 3 by outlawing monopolies which would be the result of the passage of Issue 3.
“That’s certainly weighing on this entire election as well,” Oltman said. “There’s some confusion about what could possibly happen.”
Oltman said there are two possible scenarios that could arise from the passage of both Issue 2 and Issue 3.
She said lawmakers have talked about the possibility that the issue that would garner the most votes would ultimately prevail. Another scenario is that Issue 2 would trump Issue 3. No one knows the outcome as of now and it is possible the entire outcome would end up in court.
“We feel really confident and I feel confident more and more every day,” Oltman said. “hearing people and seeing how many people are starting to get excited about Issue 3 in Ohio because we know this is our chance.”
The law would allow residents to grow up to four plants per household with a license and create marijuana testing facilities. Issue 3 would also limit the ability of state and local authorities to impose laws restricting the pot industry. It would establish a tax rate of 15 percent on gross revenue from marijuana grow facilities and 5 percent on gross revenue from marijuana stores.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.