ResponsibleOhio, which is pushing a broadly-drawn constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in Ohio, has drafted a measure that calls for a state commission to regulate the production and sale of marijuana and also specifies 10 sites where marijuana could be grown.
The amendment, in some respects, is similar to the one that paved the way for legalizing casino gambling. It, too, listed a relative handful of locations where casinos could operate.
Not surprisingly, the ResponsibleOhio initiative, like the successful push for casinos, is being driven by interests that stand to benefit from the establishment of what some are calling a marijuana cartel. If the amendment makes it to the ballot and is passed by voters, the 10 sites listed would be permanently enshrined in the state's basic governing document as the only locations in Ohio for commercial production of marijuana. Small-scale marijuana farming would continue to be prohibited.
State Auditor David Yost and Attorney General Mike DeWine have expressed concern about what they see as the misuse of the statewide initiative process by special interests. They raise a valid point.
Yost told the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission recently that the marijuana and casino initiatives effectively limited competition while "maintaining profitability for the privileged few to gain constitutional status."
The initiative process, he said, "was designed to protect the many against the powerful few," but "has been hijacked by the powerful few." He added, "The constitution shouldn't be somebody's paycheck."
DeWine echoed Yost's concerns. "The idea that people can put enough money together so they can get something on the ballot that would directly benefit their pocketbook is just outrageous. It's disgusting."
ResponsibleOhio contends that it is taking the initiative to provide medical marijuana as an option for Ohioans who need it, and that it is doing so because the legislature has failed to act on that issue. The fact remains that a relative handful of large-scale growers would stand to benefit directly from the marijuana initiative, just as a handful of casino operators have been granted a constitutional monopoly on gambling in Ohio.
We join Yost and DeWine in questioning the perversion of the initiative process and hope that a legislative remedy is forthcoming.