Commentary

09.25.15

Issue 3: Now’s the Time to Legalize Marijuana

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I Stock photo. Use for Issue 3

Almost 40 years ago, long before the issue took off around the country, Ohio legislators decriminalized the possession of marijuana up to 100 grams, a not insignificant amount. This was welcome progress, and the hope was lawmakers and police across Ohio would soon focus their attention elsewhere.

However, as positive as this change was, it did not end debate in Ohio.  Nor did it mean the end of trouble for those caught using or possessing marijuana. From then until now, Ohioans continue to face numerous consequences from those apparently addicted to marijuana prohibition.  Some localities never fully reflected the changed state law in their local ordinances. Instead, in cities like Medina, possession of any amount will land someone in jail for three days.

Large amounts of people lose their drivers’ license for months. Others find themselves in legal trouble for possession of paraphernalia. For some, any court date means fines and fees they are unable to pay. Until recently, that could result in a trip to a modern-day debtor’s prison.  For people of color, it means extra scrutiny when they are pulled over or searched. It also means an arrest and conviction rate well above their white counterparts.

Those suffering from debilitating medical conditions could surely benefit from the medical properties of marijuana without breaking the bank for expensive synthetic versions.

Clearly, Ohio’s decades-old decriminalization efforts left many problems to be solved.

Ohio voters now have a chance to chart Ohio’s destiny and go further than the Ohio General Assembly once did by voting for Issue 3.  The ACLU of Ohio recommends voters do exactly that.

Vote yes on Issue 3! Read our statement supporting this ballot initiative for marijuana legalization.

Our endorsement was not difficult. We are an organization that has long advocated the legalization of marijuana in Ohio. Issue 3 would accomplish that goal.

Others have reservations about how exactly the business operations would work, the investors, using a ballot initiative to make these changes, and other factors. Some of these concerns are understandable. Others seem overblown.

Ohio voters will continue to debate these leading up to November 3. However, those issues are not civil liberties issues. Our issue is marijuana legalization. Issue 3 accomplishes it.

Register to vote by October 5. Check out our “Three-Step Guide to Voting” to learn what you need to know.

Some urge voters to wait for the next ballot initiative, assuring them it will be better. To that, we ask, “What next initiative?”

Getting on the ballot in Ohio and running an effective campaign is a very difficult and expensive proposition costing $15 to $20 million.  Past efforts to accomplish this for medical or personal use have all fallen far short, not even reaching the ballot, despite the best intentions of their supporters and architects. Without major financial backing, ballot initiatives in Ohio are always doomed from the start.

Why wait to see if all the planets perfectly align for a “next time” when voters can soon start casting ballots for Issue 3 in mere weeks?

The choice in 2015 is quite clear. We can choose to support an indefensible status quo that wastes money, clogs our criminal justice system, and negatively impacts Ohio and its citizens. Or, we can accept that prohibition does not work, never has, and vote to reverse course.

Exercise your rights and get rid of this failed system. It’s possible and it’s long past time. Vote yes on Issue 3.

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