If there’s one thing hard-core hippies like more than hitting a hookah full of homegrown hashish, it’s hating on the money-mongering materialism of western society.
That may be a bit stereotypical, but it illustrates to a tee what is really wrong with the current ballot proposal regarding the legalization of marijuana in Ohio.
It is also the reason the real hippies — an amalgam of individuals who continue to exist within the fabric of American culture — find the proposed Issue 3 amendment as skunky as those who just don’t want weed legalized in the state.
Issue 3, as it will appear on the Tuesday ballot, would legalize marijuana for recreational use and make some half-hearted provisions for medical uses.
While the issue of whether or not to legalize cannabis and its active chemical ingredient THC is a valid question to ask voters to weigh in on, the proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution would not only legalize marijuana use, but would make permanent a whole set of laws on who can and cannot produce it.
It specifically states that 10 corporations — a monopoly, in essence, with private investors who are funding the campaign in favor of this week’s ballot issue — would have exclusive rights to produce all marijuana to be sold in Ohio. Something certainly smells skunky about this arrangement.
In a recent column in the Athens (Ohio) News, Donald E. Wirtshafter, a lawyer who has been a long-time leader in cannabis reform and is in favor of a responsible marijuana legalization process, came out strongly opposed to Issue 3. He writes:
"Issue 3 is all about money, not about medical patients. Issue 3 is about retail sales to adults. Its weak medical provisions are being used as an afterthought to get your vote. Issue 3 pandering itself as medical has split the pro-cannabis community. Some people are so desperate for freedom that they are willing to give up all rights to a new master. Others see potential for personal profit and are jumping on the Issue 3 bandwagon so as not to be frozen out if the forces of greed actually win this election.
Sensible cannabis reform uses merit-based licensing. The best-prepared and best-planned efforts are rewarded permits to operate. Issue 3 schemers grab all this momentum for themselves, while admitting they know nothing about pot, its medical uses, or how to supply it to consumers and patients. A state-sanctioned monopoly assures no competition and ensures predatory pricing. Competition and market forces should determine prices, not collusion ...
If you like cannabis, don’t like monopolies or simply want to see its availability regulated sensibly, please vote against Issue 3 on Nov. 3. We can and must do better for Ohio."
Many commenters on Mr. Wirtshafter’s column also indicate that residents of southeast Ohio, where marijuana cultivation already has a very real local economic impact, are opposed to the current proposal.
The proposed law would be like adding an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that says only 10 corporate farms in Ohio could produce corn and anyone in Ohio who wants to eat corn must either eat the factory-farmed product or grow their own. Bye-bye Wishwell and Wenger’s; no more sweet corn at the Logan County Farmers’ Market.
It would be akin to telling motorists they could only drive one of 10 brands of automobiles on Ohio highways. Sure, it would still be legal to own a Ferrari, but if you take it out of the garage, you’re breaking a law.
These far-fetched laws sound ludicrous, but they are exactly what voters are being asked to approve in the uncharted arena of marijuana legislation.
Given the fact that some surveys indicate 50 percent of Ohioans already favor allowing marijuana for recreational use, I think it is inevitable that Ohio — like the rest of the nation — will eventually legalize marijuana in some form.
If we want to do it properly and rationally, our lawmakers in Columbus should read the peace signs on the wall and begin planning responsible legislation now.
By setting a target date for marijuana legalization a year or two out and then enacting sensible laws patterned after the successes and failures of other states that have already begun the legalization process, Ohio can be a trendsetter.
With proper planning, the Legislature could address every angle before the change takes effect — from regulation and taxation at the point of sale to methods for measuring unacceptable levels in the blood while driving or at work.
Of course that would require having forward-thinking politicians in Columbus.
And they might just be as few and far between as our aging hippie population.
Reuben Mees is an Examiner staff writer and modern day hippie who no longer smokes weed. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.