Ohio considers the crony side of cannabis
Ohio is poised to become the first American state to flout the federal Schedule I drug law and to go straight to recreational marijuana use for adults without going through the medicinal purpose stage.
The proposed constitutional provision will also allow cannabis use at any age for medical purposes. Of course, as we have learned from Colorado and Washington state, doctors won’t risk their licenses to prescribe it and pharmacies won’t risk theirs to dispense it. It will continue to be only a suggestion by medical professionals for certain kinds of illness or discomfort.
Colorado and Washington have experienced some other hiccups in their marijuana experiments. For instance, it’s much more difficult to make an enforcement case for operating a motor vehicle under the influence with marijuana than it is with alcohol consumption. Lacking a standard like the 0.08 level of blood alcohol content, law enforcement largely have to rely on field tests.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Ohio State Medical Association, the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other groups oppose the initiative. Gov. John Kasich – currently on a different kind of high after winning the primary endorsement of fellow presidential candidate “Deez Nuts,” a 15-year old Iowa high school sophomore who was polling 9 percent of the votes in North Carolina on social media last month – opposes the initiative, as do most of the state’s constitutional officers.
But the most compelling reason to be concerned about Ohio’s proposed constitutional amendment is that it would, according to an editorial in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch, “change Ohio’s foundational document in order to financially benefit a handful of people.”
That’s right: a monopoly on weed production in the state Constitution.
By that, I mean that 10 plots of land in the state, by actual parcel number, are granted exclusive rights to grow, cultivate and extract the good stuff. Facilities licensed to sell marijuana products in the state are only allowed to process cannabinoids and THC from plants grown on the 10 plots of land owned by the entrepreneurs who are funding the initiative campaign. One of whom is former boy band star Nick Lachey, perhaps best-known as Jessica Simpson’s ex-husband and reality show co-star.
How does a real libertarian sort out this new exercise in do-it-yourself crony capitalism?
Last month, Responsible Ohio filed 695,273 petition signatures with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. But after about 40 percent of the signatures were deemed invalid, the campaign came up 29,509 signatures short of the 305,591 needed to make the November ballot. A review by Husted earlier this month determined the initiative had collected 320,267 valid signatures, qualifying in 77 of the state’s 88 counties.
More recently, the ballot backers have taken issue with the language agreed to by the Ohio Ballot Board. Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas, who is serving as counsel to Responsible Ohio, said he was preparing to sue in his former court to replace ballot language describing “recreational” marijuana with “personal use,” which better reflects the purpose of the constitutional amendment in the judgment of the supporters.
Meanwhile, the state Legislature thinks it has the antidote. Issue 2 on the November ballot is a measure cooked up by the state’s lawmakers to nullify any future constitutional amendment that awards benefits to an exclusive set of investors. Husted swears that, if it passes, it will negate the new marijuana provision, even if both pass in the same election. The specific language of House Joint Resolution 4 preventing grants of monopoly in the Ohio Constitution is:
Restraint of trade or commerce being injurious to this state and its citizens, the power of the initiative shall not be used to pass an amendment to this constitution that would grant or create a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel, specify or determine a tax rate, or confer a commercial interest, commercial right, or commercial license to any person, nonpublic entity, or group of persons or nonpublic entities, or any combination thereof, however organized, that is not then available to other similarly situated persons or nonpublic entities.
If it were only this easy to amend the U.S. Constitution, just think how many things we could fix!