CLEVELAND - A proposed marijuana legalization amendment is now officially on the November ballot, but will it create a monopoly? Some who support legalized marijuana take issue with ResponsibleOhio’s pot proposal, which Secretary of State Jon Husted certified for the ballot Wednesday. An anti-monopoly measure meant to block marijuana legalization from taking effect will also appear on the ballot.
11 investors who are spending millions of dollars to bankroll ResponsibleOhio’s campaign would own ten commercial grow sites statewide. They’d have exclusive licenses to grow and distribute marijuana commercially, according to the amendment. Sites in Northeast Ohio would be located in Hudson, Lorain and Alliance.
Some said the measure would create a monopoly, but ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James disagreed, noting the amendment would allow home growth of up to four plants.
“It certainly can’t be a monopoly when these ten growers have to compete against each other and frankly must meet the demand of the consumer, because if they don’t, the state adds more licenses,” James said. “None of that’s a monopoly, that's a new industry. “
The anti-monopoly measure, voted onto the ballot by the Republican-controlled state legislature, could be the marijuana measure’s greatest roadblock. It would "prohibit an initiated constitutional amendment that would grant a monopoly... determine a tax rate, or confer a commercial interest... to any person."
If both pass, Husted, a Republican, said he believes the legislature’s amendment would take effect immediately, while Ohio’s constitution mandates public initiatives take 30 days to become effective.
“Should the legislature`s amendment be approved at the ballot box, it will establish dominance and prevent ResponsibleOhio`s provision from taking a place in the state`s constitution,” Husted said in a statement.
Attorney and legal expert Ian Friedman said the courts may have to decide if there’s a marijuana monopoly and if one issue can trump another on the same ballot.
“It's going to end up in the courts. There's no question about it,” Friedman said. “Is it any different than what we just had with the casinos? Probably not. Before that passed by the state, we knew exactly who was getting the licenses and where they were going to go.”
In fact, some of the same political strategists behind ResponsibleOhio, including James, were involved in the casino amendment. The Ohio Ballot Board is expected to meet Tuesday to finalize amendment language for the November ballot.