Ohio Marijuana Groups Draw Unlikely Foes
As the marijuana legalization movement spreads across the United State, it begins to take on different forms in different states. For example, in Ohio the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana has become a five way race between competing marijuana legalization groups.
Two of those groups, ResponsibleOhio and Better For Ohio, have been leading the pack in terms of gathering signatures for their ballot initiatives. However, any advantages that ResponsibleOhio and Better for Ohio may have could quickly change as the groups have recently received the condemnation from two political parties that make up the base of the marijuana movement.
Both the Green Party and the Libertarian Party have recently come out against the ballot initiatives by ResponsibleOhio and Better for Ohio. Although both political parties are staunchly pro-marijuana legalization, the groups oppose language in the proposed initiatives that would place a limit on the number marijuana growers in the state, effectively creating a state-approved oligopoly.
In a press release, Green Party of Ohio Co-Chair Bob Fitrakis said that voting for either amendment would simply be “exchanging an illegal cartel, for a legal one” and that it would demonstrate the “worst of cannabis capitalism.”
The other three competing initiatives place no limit on the number of marijuana cultivators; and the Green Party encourages supporters to examine each one. The other organizations attempting to put a marijuana bill on the ballot are: Ohio Rights Group, Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis, and Ohioans to End Prohibition.
Under Better for Ohio’s initiative, the number of production facilities would be limited to just 40 sites. With a population of 11.59 million people in Ohio, that means that there would be one marijuana grower per 289,750 people.
As hair-raising as that sounds to some, ResponsibleOhio’s ballot measure stands to be even more controversial. Under ResponsibleOhio’s measure there would only be 10 cultivators for the entire state and those cultivators have already been selected.
In a statement, Libertarian Party of Ohio Political Director Tricia Sprankle compared ResponsibleOhio’s measure to a controversial 2009 measure that allowed a small number of business owners to operate gambling establishments in the state.
“Hopefully, the voters of Ohio have learned, and won’t be fooled a second time,” Sprankle said. “The LPO understands the desire to see cannabis prohibition end. We agree. But if Responsible Ohio’s initiative passes, Ohioans will still be getting busted for pot 20 years from now.”
Although the Libertarian Party and the Green Party are not what you would call political powerhouses, they do represent a significant part of the marijuana legalization movement’s political base. Not all marijuana users support the Green or Libertarian Party, but most members of those parties support legalization.
In a political climate where most marijuana bills only pass by two or three percent, you can not hope to pass a bill that divides your own base. With all the controversy surrounding these two initiatives, it is going to be an uphill battle, regardless of how much money is in either group’s war chest.