Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

Oh My-o, Ohio



The most prominent ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in California was announced recently, and the San Francisco Chronicle reports it has strong funding support from many of the state's mega-wealthy investors, including former Facebook President Sean Parker.

The measure is not alone — it joins 16 other decriminalization initiatives that could go before voters — but it seems, at this stage, the most likely to be well-funded enough to make it on the ballot in 2016.

The measure would allow for small personal grows, introduce excise and growing taxes, and allow people convicted of marijuana crimes to petition a court to expunge their records.

While the fight for legalization in California begins to warm up, voters in Ohio on Election Day killed an effort to legalize recreational pot.

It isn't an out-and-out defeat for marijuana advocates though, as the investor-backed measure would have placed lucrative control of the state's would-be marijuana industry squarely in the hands of a select few business interests.

As reported by the Week, Ohio's Issue 3 would have limited the number of cultivation licenses in the state to 10. Not only that, the measure noted the "specific locations and parcels of lands where these facilities will be based." And who backed the initiative? Yes, the very owners of the 10 parcels, a list that included basketball hall of famer Oscar Robertson and reality TV star and Jessica Simpson-ex Nick Lachey.

The Washington Post reported that 24 investors own the 10 proposed pot farm parcels, and that "each ownership group was asked to invest roughly $2 to $4 million in the ResponsibleOhio campaign advocating for legalization."

Backers of the legalization effort campaigned on the typical social justice platform that marijuana advocates in the state and elsewhere have long maintained, though there was clearly a financially motivating factor for the owners of the parcels.

"It has taken the alcohol industry decades of lobbying to roll back many of the restrictive, public health-oriented regulations established after the end of Prohibition," the Week's Keith Humphreys wrote. "Booze industry executives must look with envy upon the emerging marijuana industry, which can use the ballot initiative process to achieve complete regulatory capture from day one."

Despite the defeat, it's a legalization model that could catch on in other states with increasingly cannabis-friendly wealthy investors. A wave of dissatisfaction with marijuana laws is sweeping the nation. It's unclear if the state's voters were turned off by pot in general, or if they were disturbed by the particularly overt cash grab. Let's hope California's careful to put equitable legalization in place next year.

The Arcata City Council was slated to revisit proposals for Medical Marijuana Innovation Zones at its Nov. 4 meeting as the Journal went to press. And if last week's neighborhood input gathering at the Desserts on Us building was any indication, the council is likely to expand the number of parcels in the zone.

Dozens of people turned out to support inclusion of "Area C," the northernmost section of the West End Road area that was recommended for inclusion by the planning commission but nixed by the council at its last meeting.

Among the supporters of Area C were owners of the former Wayne Bare Trucking facility, who intend to create a business park for medical marijuana producers, and most of the other parcel owners in the area. Despite tearful pleas from staff from North Coast Children's Services, which sits several hundred feet from some Area C parcels, the majority of the council indicated it was amenable to including the area. The council may adopt new zoning for "Area A," the former Humboldt Flakeboard plant, this week. Check www.northcoastjournal.com for updates.

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