CINCINNATI -- They say where there’s smoke there’s fire. Truer words couldn’t be said for the fight over marijuana in Ohio.
With the November election just weeks away, organizations on both sides of Issue 3 are lining up to sway the vote.
ResponsibleOhio was able to gather 320,267 valid signatures for the petition, 44,185 more than needed to be on the November ballot.
On Monday, Ohio’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union came to bat for the embattled proposition.
However, a major law enforcement group voiced its opposition as well.
The organizations are among the latest to announce their positions on the ballot initiative. Early voting begins Oct. 6 in Ohio.
The proposed constitutional amendment would let adults 21 and older buy marijuana for medicinal or recreational use and grow four plants. It creates a network of 10 authorized growing facilities and establishes a regulatory scheme.
Ohio's Fraternal Order of Police says that while homegrown marijuana must be kept away from minors, there's no clear way for that to be enforced.
ACLU opposes the criminalization of marijuana, saying it's contributed to mass incarceration for nonviolent criminals.
Over the past year, a plethora of other groups have come out for and against the measure.
The coalition Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies counts law enforcement, businesses and business leaders and faith groups among its members. The organization is making a strong push to defeat Issue 3 through its “No on 3” campaign.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center joined the coalition on Monday.
Chief of Staff Derek Wheeler issued a statement saying:
“Those of us who are in the business of caring for the health and wellbeing of Ohio’s children have a responsibility to do no harm and promote child safety. Cincinnati Children’s believes easy access to marijuana edibles and large amounts of recreational marijuana at home is a threat to keeping children safe.”
Health advocates who are opposed to the measure cited concerns over edible marijuana products that could get into the hands of children.
“The reports we’re seeing out of states that have recently legalized marijuana indicate a clear rise in the number of young children who are hospitalized after accidental marijuana ingestion,” Dr. Patricia Klein, a pharmacist from the Drug Information & Poison Control Center, said via a release. “With the passage of Issue 3, we would expect to see a similar troubling trend in Ohio.”
The new CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce also expressed her opposition Monday saying:
“Our local businesses can’t thrive in a climate of uncertainty. The Chamber has heard from business owners who are unclear on how they would be expected to accommodate medical marijuana use in the workplace, maintain safety standards, and deal with a host of other issues should this proposal pass. The Cincinnati business community is united in opposing Issue 3. Ohio businesses want to operate in a free and competitive environment, and putting constitutional control over the industry into the hands of a few investors is anything but free and competitive.”
Greater Cincinnati Building Trades Executive Director Chad Day shared those concerns.
A construction group called “Act Ohio” -- Affiliated Construction Trades -- also oppose the measure. Group leaders wrote: “ACT Ohio’s leadership is unyielding in its requirement for a drug-free workplace on our tens of thousands of worksites across the state. Our affiliates have invested millions of dollars on both education regarding the harm resulting from drug use, as well as enforcing our random, mandatory drug testing policies.”
Meanwhile, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is supporting the proposition.
NORML leaders said in a press release, “NORML's priority and mission is to foster a legal environment where cannabis is no longer classified as contraband so that adults who engage in its use responsibly no longer face arrest, incarceration or a criminal record.”
The group claims passing Issue 3 will halt about 20,000 marijuana arrests annually and that it is “preferable to the black market.”
While not explicitly endorsing the issue, several newspapers including the Toledo Blade, Lima News, Akron Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer took issue with the language used on the ballot to describe Issue 3. The papers wrote an editorial chastising Chief Elections Officer Jon Husted about the wording.
Other notable proponents including former Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney, former Cincinnati police Chief Tom Streicher, United Food and Commercial Workers Union chapters 75, 880 and 1059 and Woody Taft and Dudley Taft Jr. -- descendants of President William Howard Taft.
Notable opponents of the measure include: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine, State Auditor Dave Yost, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Libertarian Party of Ohio.
Supporters of the amendment cite medical benefits, tax benefits and crime reduction as defining factors for their personal stance. However, some who criticize the plan draw attention to the fact that ResponsibleOhio's investors, also called "backers", are poised to largely benefit economically from the legalization.
Under the plan, most of the marijuana would be grown at 10 sites across the state, all owned by ResponsibleOhio backers.
The Marijuana Policies of Ohio Taskforce, led by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, estimated that, pending legalization, marijuana businesses could create more than 30,000 jobs and pump nearly $7 billion into the state’s economy.
Some opponents, like the Ohio Rights Group, Legalize Ohio 2016, Responsible Ohioans and Better for Ohio, argue that ResponsibleOhio would create a monopoly on the legal pot market before it gets off the ground and offer alternative means to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use.