Buzzkill: Ohio voters reject legal marijuana

Posted at 10:01 AM, Nov 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-04 10:01:28-05

NEW YORK — The push for legal marijuana had a major buzzkill Tuesday.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized recreational and medical marijuana, dealing a blow to advocates of drug policy reform.

The statewide initiative, which also called for limited marijuana farming, was voted down by a wide margin.

Advocates had hoped to make Ohio the latest state to legalize pot for recreational use — something that has happened in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska, as well as in Washington, D.C. (Medical marijuana is legal in 24 states and D.C.)

In an unusual move, Ohio’s Issue 3 identified 10 specific plots of land where commercial pot farming would have been allowed.

ResponsibleOhio, the group that pushed for the initiative, is made up of 25 investors who own that land.

Among the investors are Nick Lachey of the 1990s boy band 98 Degrees, former NFL player Frostee Rucker, former NBA player Oscar Robertson, fashion designer Lanette Lepore, as well as Woody Taft and Dudley Taft Jr., the great-great grandnephews of President William Howard Taft.

The unusual structure of the proposed legal pot industry sparked concerns about a marijuana monopoly.

State legislators even crafted a counter initiative — Issue 2 — that would “prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status.”

Woody and Dudley Taft dismissed the idea that the initiative would have created a monopoly.

“We don’t agree with calling it a monopoly,” Woody Taft said on CNN’s New Day on Tuesday morning, before voting had started. “How can you call 10 competing people a monopoly?”

He called Issue 2 — the “anti-monopoly initiative” — a “dirty trick by the legislature.”

Some supporters of legal pot believed the 10-farm structure undermined the legalization movement.

Adam Orens, managing director for the Marijuana Policy Group, said prior to the vote that the lack of grower competition “taints” the legalization vote.

But Issue 3 also would have allowed residents to grow their own pot, so long as they didn’t sell it. Residents with state permits would have been permitted four plants to grow eight ounces.

Lachey took to Twitter once it was clear the ballot measure would fail. He said that while he doesn’t agree with the vote, “the people of Ohio have spoken.”