Press Release  | 11/03/2015

Flawed Marijuana Legalization Ballot Measure in Ohio Roundly Defeated

Marijuana Oligopoly Rejected by Ohio Voters

Ohio voters have rejected a controversial marijuana legalization initiative that would have restricted commercial marijuana production to the ten properties owned by the principal investors in the initiative.

The initiative, Issue 3 was a first in many respects: the first marijuana reform campaign funded almost entirely by "investors" who would benefit financially from the initiative, the first initiative to restrict commercial production to a limited number of sites owned by the major investors in the ballot initiative, and the first to appear simultaneously on the ballot with another initiative -- Issue 2 -- that seeks to nullify the legalization initiative.  If it had won, it also would have made Ohio the first state to legalize marijuana without first legalizing it only for medical purposes.

“I don’t see the defeat of Issue 3 slowing the national momentum for ending marijuana prohibition” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Voters, including those who would like to see marijuana legally regulated and taxed, were clearly turned off by the oligopoly provision.  None of the legalization initiatives enacted to date -- in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska -- contains such a provision nor do any of the initiatives headed to the ballot in 2016 -- in California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and possibly Michigan.”

While pre-election polls in Ohio suggested that voters were evenly split on whether or not to legalize marijuana, such polls are notoriously unreliable in an off-year election when relatively few citizens vote.  Young voters, who overwhelmingly favor legalizing marijuana, are the least likely to vote in such elections. 

A competing initiative, Issue 2, appeared headed to victory late Tuesday night.  Issue 2 was put on the ballot by the Ohio General Assembly in an attempt to block Issue 3 by prohibiting initiatives from granting special, constitutionally protected rights for the financial benefits of individuals.  “The lopsided defeat of Issue 3, combined with the likely victory of the anti-oligopoly initiative, will likely discourage investors in other states from backing any marijuana legalization initiative that contains a similar provision,” said Ethan Nadelmann.  “And that’s a good thing.”

In 2012, residents of Colorado and Washington took the historic step of voting to permit the legal regulation of marijuana cultivation, production and sales for adults 21 and older. Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. voted to legalize marijuana in 2014, and other states are likely to follow suit in the coming years. Encouraging signs of success have already been documented in Colorado and Washington.


Tony Newman (646) 335-5384
Ethan Nadelmann (646) 335-2240