Why I’m voting ‘no’ on RO’s proposed amendment

Responsible Ohio’s plan to change constitution smacks of greed

By Tom Stephens

We in Ohio will soon decide for ourselves whether or not marijuana can be used legally by adults for both medical and recreational purposes in the Buckeye State. It’s probable that we’ll see a measure on the ballot as early as this coming November.

I have for many years been 100 percent in support of the complete legalization of marijuana in Ohio, indeed the entire United States. There are readers of this column who use marijuana as a palliative for chronic and often horribly painful medical conditions. There are readers who simply prefer marijuana over other drugs such as alcohol. I passionately believe that those readers and any other adult in Ohio should be able to make the choice to use marijuana without having to break the law.

How cannabis first became illegal in the United States is a story that borders on farce, albeit a farce written by E.A. Poe. The first laws against personal use and possession for ‘marihuana’ were passed after the turn of the last century in states that had large immigrant (read Mexican) populations. When the 18th Amendment was repealed, a grandstanding D.C. bureaucrat named Harry J. Anslinger had the foresight and lung power to find new vice to stamp out now alcohol was once again legal. That vice was marijuana.

Mr. Anslinger is long dead so it won’t hurt his feelings if I point out here that he was a frothing racist with deeply disturbing mommy issues. He seemed to have a pathological fear of sexually-transmitted infections and had difficulty recognizing marijuana, sex, and race as three distinct issues. As head of the agency that was the forerunner of what is now the DEA, he bizarrely and repeatedly held that marijuana use led directly widespread STIs and countless pregnancies, especially when brown boys started sharing pot with white girls. He essentially put out bounties on jazz musicians who smoked pot because they were an easy target as he assumed that most, if not all, jazz musicians were black. Anytime he could pull out the race and sex card to ramrod the Constitution and put a few black and brown people in jail for possession of marijuana, he did it, and the policy was to pile on sex charges if white women were involved. Given that he lasted in the job for 30 years – from the New Deal to the Kennedy Administration – he made a great many dents in that old parchment.

To be fair, Anslinger also did a great deal of harm to the mostly white farmers here in fly-over country. He was very cozy with one William Randolph Hearst, the publishing magnate who happened to be heavily invested the timber forests that fed newsprint to his media empire. Commercial cannabis or hemp is simply marijuana that has not been cultivated for consumption. It grows fast and large and has hundreds of uses, none of which involve smoking or otherwise ingesting it. One of those uses is to make paper. Hearst had no intention of losing his investment to a bunch of dirt famers in the Midwest and greased Anslinger to pull something off to eliminate the competition. He did. Growing marijuana for commercial purposes was banned in another measure that made Hearst’s money well spent.

As of this writing, the old-growth forests of the Northwest are being mown down one mountain at time (Ax Men remains a popular show on the History Channel), while a farmer in Goshen or Stokes Townships would be breaking the law if he put in two acres of hemp. That deal made eight decades ago between an unhinged anti-drug crusader and a unscrupulous tycoon looms over west central Ohio to this very day.

Later came the “War on Drugs” and with it the jaw-dropping lunacy of the Federal government classifying pot a Schedule 1 drug, stating unequivocally that marijuana has no medicinal value and has a high potential for abuse. This is simply not true. Marijuana has any number of legitimate medical uses, many of which we don’t yet know about because as a Schedule 1 drug, it’s not widely available for extensive research or clinical trials.

As for a high potential for abuse, marijuana doesn’t even crack the top five. Pop quiz: What is the most commonly abused drug in the United States? If you didn’t say caffeine, you just flunked. Caffeine works fast, powerfully, inexpensively and is readily available to anybody, no ID required. In Ohio, the energy drinks one see’s stacked up in the racks and coolers of the local self-serve may be purchased with the EBT card. The kids call the energy drinks ‘truck stop crack.”

I’m not aware of any Biblical injunction that specifically forbids it the use of marijuana; Genesis 1:29 says quite the opposite. If you have a moral objection to the use of marijuana, I respect that, but would ask you to remember that tobacco killed about 450,000 Americans last year, and 10 percent of those deaths were attributed to second-hand smoke. Another 80,000 or so died from alcohol-related illnesses or accidents. I read today that casinos in Ohio reached the $400 million mark in earnings so far this year, and this is not counting the other millions lost each day to the state in keno games or scratchy lotto tickets.

I’ve been waiting 20 years for the Ohio to completely legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use.

But I’m willing to wait a few more. I intend to vote ‘no’ on the amendment to the Ohio Constitution as proposed by a group called Responsible Ohio, a slick and heavily-financed PAC that is pushing hard to get this amendment passed, and get it passed quickly.

The issue as written (as of July 8) and proposed by Responsible Ohio would indeed allow Ohioans over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use and create a system where persons with recognized illnesses that are palliated by marijuana (or its byproducts) can obtain it for medicinal purposes at a not-for-profit outlet. So far, so good.

But here the amendment takes a turn into left field. It goes on to say that marijuana may only be grown at one of ten sites in Ohio, none of which are within 50 miles of where I now sit in DeGraff. All ten of the sites are owned by the same investment group that is fronted by Responsible Ohio. Retail stores that want to sell marijuana in Ohio would have to pay a hefty licensing fee before being required by law to buy any marijuana to be sold retail from one of the ten named sites. Another cute clause to the amendment prohibits the facilities where the medicinal pot will be grown to directly sell or transfer said pot to the consumer, which is basically adding a extra layer of padding so the investors don’t get burned on the ‘not-for-profit’ medicinal sales.

Finally, the amendment will allow adults to grow their own and share (not sell) their product with another adult “in an amount not to exceed four flowering marijuana plants and eight ounces of usable homegrown marijuana at a given time…” In other words, should this amendment pass as written, no one gets to sell as much one gram of pot in Ohio without the syndicate getting a cut.

The Ohio Legislature seems to have gotten blindsided by Responsible Ohio’s remarkably well-organized blitzkrieg campaign to collect the necessary signatures to get the measure on the November ballot, but that Republican-controlled body has recently cast a jaundiced eye on the proposal and is sensing that RO’s attempt to corner the market on marijuana in Ohio isn’t going to fly with the folks at back home. Replacing an illegal cartel with a legal one is not a solution. The legislature is considering proposing an amendment of its own, one that puts the kibosh on the proposed monopoly. Should we see both issues on the same ballot come November, this will certainly make for a lively and interesting debate.

I recognize the fact that the legalization of marijuana is not a panacea. We will not all be standing knee deep in beer and skittles once it’s legalized, nor will the ground open up and swallow the state of Ohio. It does not address the more serious and pressing drug issues we have right here in the Heartland, such as the remarkable availability of the high-quality heroin and powerful prescription drugs which are killing Ohioans at a rate of about six-per-day, most of whom are under 30.

The legalization of marijuana in Ohio under the right circumstances would prove to be a boon in a number of ways. Cleaning out the jails of low-level, non-violent prisoners who are serving sentences for marijuana offenses would be a nice start (heroin, coke, and meth dealers may stay in the can until Rapture as far as I’m concerned). Taking the onus of tracking down weed dealers away from police and other law enforcement agencies frees up their time to track down the real killers, the dealers of the poison known as smack. The additional tax dollars generated my legalizing marijuana may help Governor Kasich meet his goal eliminating the state income tax by with the pot monies helping offset the lost revenue in income taxes. Allowing Ohioans to grow their own without having to get a dispensation from Responsible Ohio is another goal.

When this or similar measure does pass (and it will eventually, just maybe not this year) and Ohio sets the date for the grand openings across the state, I hope to be first in line at the local dispensary. Just so it’s not affiliated with Responsible Ohio.

I do not believe my right to use marijuana in an adult and responsible manner is worth surrendering my right to shop in a free and open market. Sorry, RO, but scope of the greed exhibited by your investors is much to dear a price to pay.

Vote ‘No’ on RO.

Responsible Ohio’s plan to change constitution smacks of greed

By Tom Stephens

A contributing writer for this newspaper, Tom Stephens wrote this column as his personal opinion as a resident of the reading area of the Riiver Current.

A contributing writer for this newspaper, Tom Stephens wrote this column as his personal opinion as a resident of the reading area of the Riiver Current.