Section: News

Will Ohio go green?

Will Ohio go green?

Something’s been stirring the pot in Ohio.

Issue 3 is a proposed amendment to the Ohio constitution that would legalize recreational marijuana for Ohioans age 21 and older, and medical marijuana for those of any age who have qualifying medical conditions; on Tuesday, Ohioans get to vote on it.

Marijuana is the most common illegal substance at Kenyon, according to Substance Abuse Counselor Mike Durham; it is also the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. But marijuana legalization efforts at the state level are becoming increasingly common: four states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older, and 23 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana.

Now it may be Ohio’s turn.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule-I drug, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical treatment use. Marijuana is currently decriminalized in Ohio, meaning that possession of less than 100 grams of the substance holds no threat of jail time, though the offense is still a criminal misdemeanor. There have been several recent attempts to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, but backers continuously failed to meet the deadlines for obtaining the number of signatures required to get an amendment on the ballot.

“We want to bring marijuana out of the shadows,” said Faith Oltman, a spokeswoman for ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee behind Issue 3.

Issue 3 gives exclusive rights to grow marijuana commercially to 10 predetermined facilities. In exchange for growing rights, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, each of the 10 investment groups donated $2 million to ResponsibleOhio’s campaign to get Issue 3 on the ballot. Investors include former 98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey and Woody Taft, a descendant of President William Howard Taft.

Oltman said marijuana legalization would create jobs, tax revenue and the ability to provide care to Ohioans eligible for medical marijuana.

A significant majority of Kenyon students support legalization. In a survey conducted by the Collegian and administered between Oct. 19 and Oct. 28 via Student-Info emails to Kenyon’s student population, 80 percent of 560 total respondents said they thought medical and recreational marijuana should be made legal in Ohio.

But only 43 percent were in favor of Issue 3; 27 percent were not in favor.

For some, even those who may support marijuana legalization, Issue 3 inspires mixed feelings. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they were undecided on Issue 3.

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Mike Curtin, a Democrat in the Ohio House of Representatives, finds Issue 3’s designation of 10 facilities with exclusive growing rights problematic. This drove him to co-sponsor the House bill that later became Issue 2, another constitutional amendment that will be on Tuesday’s ballot.

“If Ohioans want to vote to legalize marijuana, that’s fine,” Curtin said to the Collegian. “What’s not fine is for 10 landowners to try to corner the market on the business to their exclusive benefit in perpetuity.”

Known as the anti-monopoly amendment, Issue 2 would prohibit the use of the Ohio constitution to grant a monopoly for the petitioner’s exclusive financial benefit. Nineteen other states already have anti-monopoly provisions in their state constitutions, according to Curtin.

Durham is unsure how he will vote, because he is not a fan of Issue 3’s “monopoly kind of approach,” he said. Durham moderated a panel on Wednesday in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater to discuss Issues 2 and 3; the event was sponsored by Kenyon Democrats, Kenyon Republicans and Bacchus, a division of Campus Senate that examines College policies on substances. The panel featured Nicholas Snow, visiting professor of economics and a specialist in illegal markets; Todd Bell, a campus safety officer; Lee Roberts, a representative of ResponsibleOhio; and Graeme Taylor ’18, who has a medical marijuana license in Michigan. About 66 people were in the audience, and approximately 40 of those audience members were students.

If Issue 3 were to pass, Dean of Students Hank Toutain and Samantha Hughes, director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, would make any necessary adjustments to College policies. Hughes said the changes would be minimal because of the age limit associated with the amendment.

Bell said Campus Safety has been discussing the prospect of marijuana legalization for the last two weeks. Issue 3 raises a number of concerns for Bell, and he believes more research on the topic is needed.

“Are we worried about an increased workload? Yeah, but we don’t know that yet,” Bell said. Bell is also uneasy about individuals’ ability to grow and trade limited quantities of marijuana and about the location of potential testing facilities near college campuses.

Issue 2, however, is also not without its critics.

“It’s clear that it was hastily put together, and it’s pretty confusing for voters,” ResponsibleOhio’s Oltman said. “Really what it does is it makes the process of petitioning your government harder.”

Issue 2 would prohibit from taking effect any proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot that creates a monopoly for a Schedule I drug. Issue 2 would also require groups with special economic interests to pass two ballot issues if they seek to amend the Ohio constitution, making it harder to use the constitution to create a monopoly.

Oltman called Issue 2 “a direct result of Issue 3 getting on the ballot.”

If both Issue 2 and Issue 3 pass, it is unclear if the former would overrule the latter. The Ohio constitution says if two conflicting ballot issues pass, the one with the most votes prevails. Issue 2, however, says it shall become effective immediately if passed; Issue 3 would not take effect until 30 days after the vote.

“Really the only thing people can agree on right now is that it will go to court,” Oltman said.

Oltman added that this provision would inhibit future attempts at legalizing marijuana via constitutional amendment. (The language of Issue 2, however, seems to refer only to Schedule I drug monopolies on the Nov. 3 ballot.)

The failure of Issue 3 would not end attempts to get a marijuana legalization amendment on the ballot. A campaign called Legalize Ohio 2016 is currently in the final stages of signature-gathering to get an amendment on the 2016 ballot. The amendment would legalize recreational and medical marijuana, and allows for what the campaign calls “a free market for legal marijuana.”

Bill Gardner contributed reporting.

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