You Probably Shouldn’t Sign the New Petition for Legalized Pot

We’ll wait for your collective gasps to quiet down.

There we go.

Young people want weed legalized. That’s no secret. It’s not just because people want to get high — though that obviously factors in — but because a lot of young people have friends or relatives who are currently serving or have previously served criminal sentences for marijuana possession.

In a recent interview with President Obama conducted by Vice News, the interviewer asked the president about legalization. Shane Smith, the interviewer, asked not simply because the topic is relevant, but because Vice’s readers voted it their top priority question in an online poll prior to the interview.

The president brushed it off as a juvenile question and suggested that young people worry about something more important, such as climate change and the economy.

While we could go through all the reasons why President Obama is off base for dismissing young people’s concerns over legalization, other news outlets have done a fine job of summating those points. We want to bring the discussion a little closer to home and argue an unlikely position — you shouldn’t support the current plan to legalize weed in Ohio.

President Obama was right in saying young people need to worry about things like climate change and the economy. In fact, it’s economic worries in particular that have brought us to the decision to officially oppose the pot legalization group ResponsibleOhio’s — not to be confused with the Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis — current plan to bring weed legalization to the ballot.

Ohio’s Ballot Board on Friday voted to allow ResponsibleOhio to begin collecting signatures for a petition that would see their initiative added to the ballots in November.

When discussing legalization, Colorado is the go-to example for why the practice can and does work. And they should be, because they’ve done a fine job of implementing the system, save for a few hiccups where state business intersects with federal business.

ResponsibleOhio’s plan isn’t the same as the Colorado plan. Colorado’s legalization plan allows individuals to have up to 6 personal plants and allows individuals to start grow operations and dispensaries as easily as opening up a new shoe store. ResponsibleOhio’s plan would set up 10 statewide grow operations and allow individuals to keep up to 4 personal plants for cultivation so long as they have a license. The cost or difficulty associated with getting a license is something we’re interested to see.

So what’s wrong with having 10 grow operations around the state? Well, it effectively establishes a state weed cartel and stymies free market competition.

ResponsibleOhio responded to these claims by changing their initial proposal to include personally owned plants, and told one of our reporters that their justification for proposing such strict regulation was to ensure the pot’s “safety from seed to sale.”

Safety from what? People having been buying unregulated weed from God-knows-where since before the drug was even scheduled. There are no official deaths attributed specifically to “bad pot,” and all of the anecdotes arguing those claims have a veracity that is debatable at best.

Let’s be honest about what’s going on here — those 10 individuals, or landowners, or companies, or whoever it is that gets to own those grow operations are bound to make a lot of money off ResponsibleOhio’s plan, just like Penn National Gaming did when Ohio effectively created a gambling cartel in the state.

Limiting who can start a retail marijuana business ensures that people who want to buy weed will be paying absurd prices. Some consumers will have to drive long distances to get to their nearest dispensary, and the lack of free market competition nagging business owners to always get better means we’ll likely never see truly impressive products and strains of marijuana in the state because there will be no driving force to bring it about.

Not only does this plan hurt the consumer, but it also hurts local economies.

Colorado’s plan allows for visitors to buy and use recreational marijuana in state, so long as they’re of age and don’t take it out of state.
If Ohio had a similar plan, we would certainly make money on out-of-state weed tourists, and local business owners could benefit and turn that money around for reinvestment in the local economy.

For an example of this, we need to look no further than Vintage Estate in Boardman. Vintage Estate is a craft beer bottle shop that lets you mix and match beers that you may not be able to find anywhere else. VE makes a large amount of money off of their Pennsylvanian customers, who take the short drive over the Ohio border to buy individual bottles of expensive beer that they would have otherwise been forced to buy by the case in Pennsylvania.

For the past five years, VE has then used their profits to throw the Big Tap In, a beer festival that brought thousands of people to Boardman. Hotels, restaurants and other local businesses all were able to benefit from one business making use of its geographic advantage.

We could see the same success with pot in Ohio if we push away ResponsibleOhio’s plan and wait for a real legalization plan to come along that supports local businesses and individual growers.

We won’t have to wait long. The Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis are currently working on an initiative that is much closer to what Colorado uses. As such, there would be far stronger opposition to the initiative, but it’s better not to cut corners when it comes to laws. It’s better to fail three times passing a good bill and triumph on the fourth then pass a bad bill quickly that doesn’t really serve the public.

Don’t reinforce the stereotype that people who smoke pot are idiots. Be smart, wait for a real solution to Ohio’s legalization issue.