Guest Columnist: Responsible Ohio’s Petition has more cons than pros

Graham Smith

Let me start by saying that I am in no way against the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use. Although I do not smoke myself, I believe that marijuana is a harmless drug. Similar vices, such as alcohol and cigarettes, and even pharmaceutical drugs have each killed more people than using marijuana has.

Furthermore, making marijuana use legal for adults could help greatly relieve the U.S. prison system’s overcrowding issues, help law enforcement focus their attention to stopping more dangerous crimes and, if taxed like other vices, could create a large revenue the government could put to use.

On March 25, pro-pot Political Action Committee Responsible Ohio announced that its Marijuana Legalization amendment language had won approval from the Ohio Ballot Board, and the group will begin collecting the 305,591 signatures necessary to put it on the 2015 November ballot.

This would seem like quite a popular petition with many people my age, and like something I would personally sign looking at my previously stated opinion. However, after reading into the language of this proposed amendment, I will definitely not be signing Responsible Ohio’s petition.

What Responsible Ohio is trying to pass will essentially create a monopoly on weed to make a select few rich, destroying the competitive free market ideals the United States was founded on and ruining the concept of the American dream.

On Wednesday of last week, many of you probably saw Responsible Ohio outside the Student Center with petitions, and I am sure they will be back, so let me explain why I did not sign it when they confronted me.

The language states that there will be 10 regulated facilities around the state that will grow and cultivate marijuana. These will be the only source of all the legal marijuana in the state that is being sold for personal and medical use.

Say I was a young entrepreneur who wanted to start a marijuana dispensary business under their amendment. I would not be allowed to grow any marijuana of my own. Instead, I would have to buy it all from one of these 10 facilities and then sell it to my clients, causing me to have to raise prices so I can afford to keep buying it. Raising prices means losing customers and potentially having to close my doors, even going back to selling it illegally.

This alone could entirely defeat the point in making weed legal, especially depending on who is really running the 10 growing facilities and how much money they want to make for themselves.

Of course there is a need for regulations, safety procedures and a vice tax. But I believe that there is nothing freeing about this amendment. While it does even allow for personal marijuana growth, you are restricted to only four plants per household, none of which can be used in any form of trade or sale in a dispensary.

What needs to be done is a true legalization, opening it up to create job opportunities for the real, everyday Ohioan, not a select few trying to make millions. Create a strict regulatory process including the Marijuana Control Commission stated in the amendment so dispensary licenses are only for safe and responsible businesses, but allow them to grow and create their product how they want, like any other company.

Make strict laws against underage usage, operating under the influence and illegal sale. Create testing facilities and regulations about what can and can’t go into the products. Make it as safe as possible, but make it legal and free market.

That’s a petition I would be willing to sign. I cannot help thinking that Responsible Ohio is preying on the many who just want to enjoy marijuana legally, the ones they believe might blindly sign this petition, all to make millions on the backs of small businesses.

Contact Graham Smith at [email protected].