Marijuana Legalization Failed in Ohio: Don’t Worry About It…

Ohio’s Issue 3, which would have legalized recreational and medical marijuana, failed at the ballot box this week.

Frankly, so what?

Maybe the better question is whether Buddie was responsible for Measure 3 having lost.
Maybe the better question is whether Buddie was responsible for Issue 3 having lost.  (Photo from

One state’s failure to successfully legalize marijuana doesn’t do a thing to the overall momentum of state-by-state legalization. And, if we’re really honest here, the measure probably didn’t fail on the merits related to marijuana. It likely didn’t pass because it would have gifted to its financial backers the overwhelming benefit of exclusivity over marijuana production throughout the entire state. So, if you’re angry that Issue 3 fizzled, you can blame the investors behind Issue 3, like former boy band extraordinaire Nick Lachey. But don’t sweat this loss when it comes to the future of legalization. Please.

Here’s why. Ohio was an outlier on multiple levels when it comes to legalization and we shouldn’t start using it as any sort of measuring stick or predictor of legalization in the U.S.

For one, it may have been too much too fast for Ohioans to have both medical and recreational marijuana legalized all at once without first experimenting with a medical marijuana regime — like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska did before they legalized recreational cannabis.

Second, and probably the biggest reason for the initiative’s failure, as Jacob Sullum put it in his most recent Forbes column about Issue 3, “Ohio voters do not like crony capitalism,” and the opposition successfully attacked those provisions of the ballot measure that would have created “. . . a cannabis cultivation cartel that would have limited commercial production to 10 sites controlled by the initiative’s financial backers.” Tellingly, the campaign also had a beef with the state’s Ballot Board which determined in its ballot description of the initiative that it would set up a marijuana “monopoly.” Issue 3 and its cabal of grower/investors became so controversial and offensive to some that the state’s own legislature put together an initiative to essentially repeal the monopoly that would allegedly be created by Issue 3.

Third, the Issue 3 campaign engaged in some questionable behavior before the vote. For example, though the campaign preached as one of its priorities keeping pot away from kids, it rolled out “Buddie” as its mascot, a marijuana super-hero who looked pretty kid-friendly to us and who angered children’s advocates across the state.

Lastly, we’re in an off-year election cycle which generally means that less people (and especially young people) turn out to vote. A Kent State survey conducted on October 8th, with a sample of 500 registered voters, showed support for Issue 3 hovering at 56%. But the survey made clear that, when it’s an off-year election vote, “low turnout electorates tend to be older and more Republican than the eligible electorate.” Since older voters tend to lean towards marijuana prohibition, this also likely affected Issue 3’s failed outcome.

Regardless of what occurred in Ohio, at least four other states that have already legalized medical marijuana are potential candidates for legalization of recreational marijuana in 2016: California, Nevada, Maine, and Arizona. Though California already has a couple of ballot initiatives that will surely compete against each other, Nevada and Arizona have dialed down their initiatives into single ballot measures that stand a good chance of success in 2016. And none of the initiatives have the controversies and battles surrounding them like Issue 3 did, which is a good thing.

So, don’t worry about marijuana in Ohio going into the tank. It certainly will not be the last marijuana legalization measure we’ll see in coming years, but it just may be one of the few that doesn’t pass.