At their board meeting held this Labor Day weekend at the World Famous Cannabis Café in Portland, Oregon, the board of directors for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws endorsed the Issue 3 constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in the state of Ohio in 2015.
Responding for comment via email (emphasis mine), Chairman of the Board Dr. Mitch Earleywine explained, “The board endorsed the Ohio initiative with reservation. We always want to do anything we can to help ensure access to medical cannabis for those who need it as well as the elimination of criminal penalties for anyone who owns a plant. That said, legal scholars on the board emphasized that other states have reached these goals without some of the drawbacks of the Ohio proposal. It’s not the bill we would have written.”
The amendment proposed by ResponsibleOhio offers marijuana legalization similar to what has already passed in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Adults over 21 may possess an ounce of usable marijuana and shop for quality-inspected marijuana products in taxed and regulated stores. Like Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, adults may grow marijuana for personal purposes in their home, albeit with a home licensing requirement found in no other state.
But unlike the other four legalized marijuana states, Ohio is creating a medical marijuana program from scratch, too, rather than struggling to reconcile an existing medical program with a new legalization regime. Most controversially, Ohio’s commercial marijuana grows would be limited to ten constitutionally-mandated sites already owned by the investors in the Ohio initiative campaign, leading critics in marijuana reform and within Ohio’s legislature to label the setup a “monopoly” (technically speaking, it is an “oligopoly”).
NORML Founder & Legal Counsel Keith Stroup commented on the Ohio initiative at Seattle Hempfest, saying, “We are about legalizing marijuana and the two things we most care about [are] stop arresting smokers […and…] a regulated market where we can buy our marijuana from a safe and secure environment. This initiative provides that. So we decided it is not our responsibility to get into a fight about who gets rich off of marijuana.”
This isn’t NORML’s first controversial legalization endorsement. In 2012, despite fighting for years to oppose per se DUID driving standards and maintaining that home growing rights are fundamental to marijuana legalization, NORML endorsed Washington’s Initiative 502, explaining in a post from the executive director, Allen St. Pierre, that, “The sponsors found through their polling that the inclusion of the right to cultivate marijuana for personal adult use would reduce their level of public support below that needed for approval. Again, while we continue to support personal cultivation, we believe the initiative still deserves our support, despite this calculated omission by I-502’s sponsors.”