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Issue 3 is the wrong way to legalize marijuana: Vote ‘no’

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

In less than two weeks, Ohio voters will determine the fate of Issue 3, a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot. If passed, the measure would make Ohio the first state east of the Mississippi to legalize the sale and use of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.

The catch: the amendment would limit the exclusive commercial right to grow the drug to 10 facilities.

The owners of the 10 facilities with the exclusive rights to grow marijuana are the donors who bankrolled ResponsibleOhio's campaign. Some of the owners are local celebrities like former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker, University of Cincinnati basketball star Oscar Robertson and Dayton pain specialist Suresh Gupta. Each donor was required to give $2 million to the campaign to get Issue 3 on the ballot.

Let's be blunt: the legalization of marijuana in the United States is long overdue. Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon have already legalized the drug for recreational use and public opinion has steadily swayed toward legalization for a while.

Legalizing marijuana would bring over 500 million tax dollars to the state, along with over 30,000 new jobs. However, Ohioans should vote no on Issue 3.

When the 21st Amendment repealed prohibition, there weren't restrictions on how many people could brew and bottle alcohol, just licenses on who could sell it and who could drink it. So what makes marijuana any different?

Issue 3 is proposing similar licenses for marijuana as well. Anyone, 21 years or older, with a license purchased from an Ohio Marijuana Control Commission - the process would be similar to purchasing a hunting license - would be able to grow, cultivate, use, possess and share no more than eight ounces of homegrown marijuana from up to four flowering marijuana plants.

The proposed amendment would also allow anyone, 21 years or older, to purchase, possess, transport, use and share up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

But limiting the growth to 10 different facilities leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Monopolies almost exclusively manifest out of government favor, and in this case, it is clear Ohio's government would create an unnecessary marijuana oligopoly.

But, if voters reject Issue 3, who knows how long it will be before Ohio can effectively roll back the disastrous war on drugs?

Reagan's War on Drugs has been devastating to people who have been excluded from participating in the legal economy. Ohio's jails are filled with thousands of people - many of them black - convicted for minor drug crimes.

The proposition of a select group of wealthy, elite business owners making millions of dollars from the legalization of marijuana and excluding small businesses seems counterintuitive. Thousands of people, convicted to decades-long sentences will continue to serve time.

Although Issue 3 would have an immediate effect on drug violence after its approval, the measure includes no language on a fresh start initiative, which would fast-track the release of the inmates already in prison.

This basement round table is made all the more hazy due to the proposal of another constitutional amendment - Issue 2.

This measure, which was almost explicitly formulated to counteract Issue 3, would prohibit any constitutional amendment from granting a monopoly.

Issue 2's unclear and complex language holds the possibility of confusing voters, who could end up approving both. A yes on Issue 2 would automatically counteract Issue 3.

If both Issue 2 and Issue 3 receive a majority from Ohio voters, the issues will be taken to the Ohio Supreme Court.

It's high time to legalize marijuana and begin to roll back draconian, harmful and discriminatory drug laws, but Issue 3 is not the way to do it.