The push to legalize marijuana at the state level has pushed a lot of different scenarios into the public eye. Each state seems to approach marijuana legalization from a distinctly different perspective offering up many trials and even a few errors. But few states have taken as rocky a path toward the legalization of recreational cannabis use as Ohio. Now a new initiative is further complicating the mix in the Buckeye State.
The Road to Legalization is Paved With Good Intentions
The Fresh Start Act seems like an initiative with good intentions when taken at face value. It offers a unique opportunity to people who have past criminal convictions due to marijuana-related offenses. The Fresh Start Act proposes that, in the assumed wake of legalized marijuana, people with marijuana-related convictions would be allowed to petition courts to wipe their slates clean. In a country that is becoming more supportive of marijuana legalization while increasingly viewing prohibitionary laws as archaic, the idea that someone’s employment or housing prospects could be jeopardized by light marijuana-related offenses is disturbing. However, the Fresh Start Act has been under a fair amount of scrutiny due to the controversial group proposing its passage: ResponsibleOhio.
ResponsibleOhio Courts Controversy with Monopoly Initiative
You may recall ResponsibleOhio from their most recent misstep; the promotion of their marijuana legalization initiative Issue 3 via a cartoonish anthropomorphic bud superhero dubbed Buddie. But potentially irresponsible marketing isn’t the reason ResponsibleOhio has earned the ire of so many people on both sides of the marijuana legalization fence. The organization’s Issue 3 initiative has been faulted with enforcing a monopoly-style industry that eliminates any opportunities for small businesses and independent growers.
While Issue 3 would allow home grows of 4 flowering marijuana plants per $50 license, only 10 commercial grow sites would be permitted statewide. While ResponsibleOhio has been quick to defend itself from accusations of facilitating a monopoly, changes to Issue 3 have already been implemented by courts due to language that’s been deemed “misleading.” Ohio residents also have recent experience with initiatives leading to monopolies. The ink is practically still drying on a bill passed in 2009 that effectively allowed for the monopolizing of Ohio’s gambling industry in which a meager 4 casinos were allowed to be constructed, overseen by 2 investment groups.
Legalizing Marijuana at a Cost
It’s through Issue 3 that ResponsibleOhio has automatically tarnished the intentions behind the Fresh Start Act in the eyes of many Ohio citizens, regardless of their stance on marijuana legalization in general. Many would rather refuse legalizing cannabis if the only option were to allow for a monopolization of the marijuana industry. The Fresh Start Act has been criticized for relying too heavily on the passage of Issue 3, dangling the carrot of clean arrest records at the end of a stick that would find Ohio trudging through a monopoly. While ResponsibleOhio has stated that they would continue to fight for the passage of the Fresh Start Act even if Issue 3 were to fail, language within the Fresh Start Act contradicts such efforts, explaining that expunging of criminal records would not be considered for federal marijuana offenses or acts deemed illegal in the wake of Issue 3’s passage. In short: marijuana legalization needs to happen for the Fresh Start Act to have a chance.
The push for marijuana legalization will go to court on November 3rd
. If Issue 3 passes, the Fresh Start act will be presented to the Ohio Assembly in January 2016 at which point the court will have up to 4 months to mull the initiative over before ruling. If any language of the Fresh Start Act is altered or if the initiative doesn’t pass, ResponsibleOhio will be tasked with collecting 92,000 signatures before the Fresh Start Act can be put to a state vote.