Ohioans will vote whether to legalize marijuana in the state on Election Day Nov. 3. Known as “Issue 3” because it is the third issue listed on the ballot, Ohioans will vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment that will legalize marijuana in Ohio if passed.
Under this amendment, Ohioans age 21 and older would be allowed to possess and consume up to one ounce of marijuana, and medical marijuana use would be allowed for citizens of any age with a certified medical illness. Individuals age 21 and older would also be able to grow up to four flowering plants or eight ounces of marijuana if they had obtained a $50 license permitting them to do so, as per the amendment. The use of marijuana would be regulated by a government agency called the Marijuana Control Commission.
The amendment was proposed by ResponsibleOhio, a group of medical and business professionals and patient advocates.
If passed, the amendment would allow for 10 growth facilities. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted inserted the word “monopoly” into the ballot language to describe the amendment, the Toledo Blade reported.
ResponsibleOhio says on its website, “There are ten initial commercial growing sites. They will be operated by separate companies and have to compete with each other on price and quality, which is the exact opposite of a monopoly.”
Mark Smith, director of Cedarville’s Center for Political Studies, said he is suspicious about the way ResponsibleOhio decided to propose the issue.
“It really makes me think the people who are advocating for Issue 3 have more of an economic interest than anything else,” he said. “Many of the people who paid for the signatures and everything will be the ones who will be those 10 predefined growers.”
Another bill on the Nov. 3 ballot is Issue 2. Issue 2 was proposed by the Ohio General Assembly, and the Assembly’s Joint Resolution said its goal is to “prohibit an initiated constitutional amendment that would grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel, specify or determine a tax rate, or confer a commercial interest, right, or license to any person or nonpublic entity.”
If Issue 3 passes and Issue 2 fails, marijuana will be legalized in Ohio. If Issue 2 passes and Issue 3 fails, marijuana will continue to be illegal in Ohio. If both issues pass, WKBN said the issue that gets the most votes will be given priority, or that priority will be decided by courts.
“The people who oppose Issue 3 pretty much put Issue 2 on the ballot as a way to undermine Issue 3,” Smith said.
Marijuana sales will be taxed under Issue 3, and the revenue would go to local government. Still, Smith said that doesn’t mean marijuana should be legalized.
“It bothers me a little bit when people look at this purely in economic terms, because even if it brings revenue to the state, that doesn’t make it good,” he said. “For instance, people say casino gambling brings revenue to the state, or the lottery brings revenue to the state, and I understand that. Those things do bring revenue to the state, but we often fail to take into account the social costs that are connected to that revenue. So even if marijuana legalization brings revenue to Ohio, we need to think about what kinds of consequences are attached to that revenue.”
Smith said there has been an increase in pot-related DUIs in Colorado since the state legalized marijuana, as well as an increase in homelessness. But he said it is difficult to determine how marijuana legalization affects society, because crime rates may level out when society adapts to legalization. However, he said it’s still not worth the risk to legalize the drug.
“Since we’re not clear what the effects will be, that would be an argument for voting against it in Ohio,” Smith said. “I would rather see Colorado and what happens in Colorado before I say, ‘Yes, we should definitely legalize.'”
Smith said Ohio would be the first state to legalize medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. Medical marijuana was already legal in Washington, D.C., Washington state, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon when recreational marijuana was legalized in each respective location.
Mark Pinkerton, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Cedarville, said that although medical marijuana has been somewhat effective in treating various ailments, there are medications that are more effective with fewer side effects. According to NPR, the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom looked at 79 studies and could not find significant evidence that marijuana was effective in treating pain.
“Because of the side effects and risk, it’s not that necessary that we have it (marijuana) in our medicine chest as a need for another medication,” Pinkerton said.
Pinkerton said some of the risks of using marijuana include decreased reaction time, decreased cognitive ability and impaired long-term memory.
Janet Neal, assistant professor of nursing at Cedarville, said that smoking marijuana has mental health consequences for people of all ages, but individuals ages 12-25 have the highest risk of experiencing such consequences since their brains are not fully developed. Neal said these consequences include attention deficit, lower IQ, and even marijuana-induced bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. She said it’s important to have good stewardship of the mind.
“The mind is a gift from God,” Neal said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated 10/26/15 to include more specific details from Janet Neal.
Jen Taggart is a junior journalism major and off-campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys writing, listening to music and fueling her chocolate addiction.