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Ohio Torpedoes Marijuana Legalization,
Takes Inevitability Myth Down With It
A Joe-Camel like superhero, “Buddie” (above), touring Ohio colleges, cities, and towns in the “Green Rush Bus”; an estimated $25 million war chest; paid canvassers knocking on one million doors; and 8,200 TV ads as of mid-October couldn’t persuade Ohioans to legalize marijuana.
The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, known as Issue 3, which would have legalized pot for both medical and recreational use, went down to resounding defeat by an almost 2 to 1 margin in yesterday’s elections. With all precincts reporting, the unofficial vote total is 64 percent (1,959,802) against, 36 percent (1,094,289) for.
The ballot measure did not win a single county in the state.
Issue 3 Proponents
Issue 3 was conceptualized by Ian James, a Columbus political consultant whose company specializes in collecting signatures for ballot initiatives. Under the name, Responsible Ohio, James persuaded ten wealthy individuals to form investment groups, contributing a minimum of $2 million each to finance Issue 3.
In exchange, each group would own one of a maximum of ten marijuana cultivation sites in the state. Because ballot initiatives in Ohio amend the state’s constitution, if passed Initiative 3 would have granted a constitutional monopoly to its sponsors for the commercial production of marijuana in Ohio.
(Critics note that James’s company earned some $5 million to collect signatures and run the Responsible Ohio campaign.) An investigation of signature irregularities, including turned-in signatures of a number of dead people, is underway.  
A Counter Initiative
Legislators drafted a counter initiative, Issue 2, to prevent monopolies from being inserted into the state’s constitution. Voters passed Issue 2 by 52 percent to 48 percent, making yesterday’s election a double win for opponents.
Issue 3 Opponents
Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, who opposed Issue 3, brought together some 140 different organizations, including “medical, legal, banking, law enforcement, chambers of commerce, political entities, trade unions, and mental health and addiction agencies,” according to USA Today. (Most of the organizations and their contact information are listed on the Links page of The Marijuana Report’s website.)
In contrast to Responsible Ohio’s $25 million bank account and thousands of TV ads, opponents raised about $1 million and by mid-October were able to place only 31 ads on TV. Instead, coalition organizations used their internal communications networks, held news conferences, and sponsored public debates to warn voters against the dangers of legalizing marijuana in their state.
Spin vs. Reality
Like legalization proponents in Colorado in 2012, Responsible Ohio promised that by 2020, $540 million in tax revenues would be raised each year with 85 percent going to safety agencies and 15 percent going to regulatory agencies. 

But such predictions aren’t turning out to be true. In a CNN interview just a few weeks ago, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper told Michael Smerconish, “I tell other governors that we are not making any extra revenue from pot sales beyond regulating the industry, making sure we have money for the appropriate programs, and money to educate kids.”

“We've got to make sure that kids and their parents understand that when your brain is still growing, this high THC marijuana can permanently diminish your long term memory,” he continued. “We have spent millions and millions of dollars and we still haven't got everyone to realize that you are taking some serious risks, certainly as a teenager when your brain is growing so rapidly.”
Misleading Polls
A week before the election, the University of Akron issued a new poll showing that Ohio voters were evenly split on Issue 3: 46 percent for, 46 percent against, 8 percent undecided. The poll came nowhere close to how the election turned out: 36 percent for, 64 percent against.
A day before the election, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a major force behind the legalization movement, told The New York Times, “If Ohio wins, it will be a significant step forward for the broader movement—nothing will excite attention like that.”
Today, trying to downplay yesterday’s defeat in Ohio and its implications for legalization elsewhere, Christopher Ingraham writes in The Washington Post, “Given the trends in national polling on marijuana legalization – support was nearly 60 percent in the latest Gallup poll, up sharply year-over-year – it doesn’t appear the issue will be going away any time soon.”
But Ohio shows that legalization proponents’ faith in polls may not be well-placed.
So, is legalization inevitable? Probably not. To quote an old saying about the bellwether state, “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”
This analysis is drawn from a number of press reports, including: 
Ohio Legends Hit Airwaves to Promotes Cannabis Measure. Read here.
Ohio Voters Reject Legal Pot, Pass Anti-Monopoly, Redistricting Measures. Read here.
Ohio Voters Evenly Divided on Legalizing Marijuana. Read here.
On Ballot, Ohio Grapples With Specter of Marijuana Monopoly. Read here.
Ohio Voters Say No to Legalizing Drugs. Read here.
Ohio Just Rejected Legalizing Marijuana. What That Means for the Future of Pot. Read here.

In last week’s October 28, 2015 The Marijuana Report, in the story titled “Marijuana Use and Marijuana Use Disorders Double in 11 Years,” this sentence appeared: 
“Three out of ten Americans, some 6,846,000 people age 18 or older, had a marijuana use disorder in 2012-2013.”
The sentence should have read, “Three out of ten Americans who used marijuana in the past year, some 6,846,000 people age 18 or older, had a marijuana use disorder in 2012-2013.”

The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter produced by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Subscribe to The Marijuana Report and visit our website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.

About National Families in Action (NFIA)
NFIA consists of families, scientists, business leaders, physicians, addiction specialists, policymakers, and others committed to protecting children from addictive drugs. Our vision is:
  • Healthy, drug-free kids
  • Nurturing, addiction-free families
  • Scientifically accurate information and education
  • A nation free of Big Marijuana
  • Smart, safe, FDA-approved medicines developed from the cannabis plant (and other plants) 
  • Expanded access to medicines in FDA clinical trials for children with epilepsy

About SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) 

SAM is a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of "incarceration versus legalization" when discussing marijuana use and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug. SAM supports a treatment, health-first marijuana policy. 

SAM has four main goals: 
  • To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.
  • To reduce the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.
  • To prevent the establishment of "Big Marijuana" - and a 21st-Century tobacco industry that would market marijuana to children.
  • To promote research of marijuana's medical properties and produce, non-smoked, non-psychoactive pharmacy-attainable medications.
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