Ohio House Passes Anti-Monopoly Bill

On June 24, 2015 the Ohio House of Representatives voted 81-12 to approve a bill aimed at thwarting a constitutional ballot initiative backed by the group ResponsibleOhio.

Under the group’s proposed plan, recreational marijuana would become legal, but only 10 pre-selected growers would be allowed to cultivate marijuana; many have called this a constitutional monopoly.

The measure passed by the House, HJR 4, would place an initiative on the 2015 ballot that would “prohibit an initiated constitutional amendment that would grant a monopoly or special economic interest, privilege, benefit, right, or license.”

In other words, ResponsibleOhio’s measure would theoretically be invalid since it establishes a 10 grower limit.

For Rep. Mike Curtin, the bill’s co-sponsor, this measure is not about marijuana; it is about the constitution. “This is a historic moment,” Curtin told Dayton Daily News. “We’re seeing attempts to mangle the initiative (process), to turn it on its head. We should all be passionate about that.”

Curtin is half right. Although ResponsibleOhio’s measure may be unprecedented with respect to marijuana policy, this would not be the first time that Ohio has voted on a measure that would establish a constitutional monopoly.

In 2009, Ohio voters passed Initiative 3, a constitutional amendment that legalized gambling but only for four casinos in Toledo, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

While HJR 4 had overwhelming support, some in the House still tried to make changes to it in an attempt to make it so the measure would not affect this upcoming election. According to The Toledo Blade, Rep. Dan Ramos was one of the few representatives that opposed the measure.

“[Supporters of Responsible Ohio] are exercising their rights as they exist today,” Ramos explained. “We cannot and should not retract those rights retroactively. This prevents the voters from deciding.” It is understandable that some would view HJR 4 as undemocratic, but when the people still have the final say on the matter, how undemocratic can it really be?

Questions aside, the matter will still have to go through the Senate and the governor’s office, which leaves plenty of time for debate. If the measure passes, it could make this upcoming election very confusing for Ohio voters.

There are currently three marijuana measures, ResponsibleOhio included, collecting signatures to get on this year’s ballot, and HJR 4 would make this an even more complicated matter. Most voters are not political junkies and when they step into the voting booth on November 3, 2015, it might be hard for them to distinguish between multiple marijuana measures.

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