The state of Ohio is going to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana this November. Under Issue 3, Ohio would allow for marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes. People would be allowed to keep a very small number of plants to be used for personal use only. The passage of Issue 3 would make marijuana legal in a state where it is completely illegal. Many progressive, and libertarian, leaning people have hailed this ballot initiative as a sign that Ohio is embracing the 21st century. Freedom is about to win.
How did a fairly prudish state like Ohio suddenly jump on the push for marijuana legalization? Ohio is rarely a trailblazing state. The top industries in the state are automotive, agriculture, and consumer products. The people who work in these jobs tend to be a bit more socially conservative. Procter and Gamble, one of the world's largest consumer goods company, quietly pushed for Ohio's 2004 gay marriage ban to be defeated. The ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly. Southwest Ohio, the home of Procter and Gamble, voted over 75% in favor of the issue. It does not seem like the people of Ohio would support an issue that the people of Oregon seem to embrace.
The people of Ohio are not being asked to support the same kind of marijuana legalization as many of the other states. Issue 3 using the idea of legal weed as a way to create a new monopoly on a product that is already flowing through the state. A product that is run by the black market, and is not taxed. The voters of Ohio are being told that Issue 3 is about individual freedom and sociological inevitability. This is not totally true. The people behind the initiative, Responsible Ohio, have already but in place the ten growing sites. Politically connected, and large corporate interests, are already lined up to take control of these grow sites. The passage of Issue 3 will make marijuana legal, and it will make a lot of rich people a whole lot richer. Money is the key to marijuana legalization.
I was a college kid in the mid 1990's, and like many other college kids, I tried marijuana (a few times). I inhaled, and learned it was not for me. Many of my peers made smoking weed a part of their lives. These people got married, took good jobs, had kids, took better jobs, and many of them still smoke weed. Whenever the discussion of decriminalizing marijuana would come up, many of my peers would say that I am not the right person to advocate for the pot smokers. I did not understand the lifestyle. My argument was not to wrap pot up as some great medical breakthrough. Every time I would see some retro goth person extolling the virtues of medical marijuana, and how it helps their back pain, I would cringe. The advocates for legalization were not helping their cause because the argument was false and they would not grow their circle of supporters. I wanted to make marijuana a cash crop for states who were having their taxes dwindle due to fiscally irresponsible state governments. If you could convince the states that there is a potentially new revenue stream that would not require you to raise taxes on the citizens, you have a winning issue. The secondary benefit is people could legally smoke pot.
The financial reward is the number one reason we are seeing the push to legalize marijuana. States are in a bidding war with each other over business taxes. Corporations regularly move manufacturing to right to work states that have very little, or none, business taxes. Corporations see the windfall in getting free land from the government, and producing a product with a very healthy mark-up. Sin taxes (i.e. cigarettes, alcohol) are very easy for the public to accept. Legal weed will have a healthy tax placed on it's sale. The non-weed smokers saw the dollar signs, and the weed smokers will get their victory.
Marijuana should be legal. It is archaic that we live in a society where something is illegal because moralists from over one hundred years ago thought God would be mad if they smoked pot. Issue 3 may not pass in Ohio this November. The initiative is a corporate giveaway, and Ohio is still pretty moralistic. Without Ohio, legal weed is coming. The dollars just add up.
RD Kulik is the Head Editor for SeedSing and the host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. He tends to be a bit high strung and needs to mellow out sometimes. Give him some advice.