Why Did Marijuana Legalization Fail In Ohio?

By Zachary Siegel 11/04/15

Experts say the ballot initiative was flawed from the start.

Image: 
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Thanks, Buddie. Photo via

Despite a $20 million campaign aimed at the passing of marijuana legalization in the state of Ohio, the measure was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of 64% to 36%.

Political experts are saying that a provision of the bill—known as Issue 3—is the main cause for the marijuana reform not passing.

"The people of Ohio have understandably rejected a deeply flawed, monopolistic approach to marijuana reform that failed to garner broad support from advocates or industry leaders," National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith said in a statement after Tuesday's vote.

This was the first ballot initiative for marijuana reform that was mostly funded entirely by “investors.” The passing of Issue 3 would have lined the pockets of these investors by restricting commercial production to a limited number of sites that are owned by said investors.

Some may take this defeat as a symbol of marijuana reform losing momentum across the country. But like Smith, Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance says the bill was flawed, not because of marijuana but due to greed.

“I don’t see the defeat of Issue 3 slowing the national momentum for ending marijuana prohibition,” he said.

Nadelmann continued with the following analysis, “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.”

Beyond the political flaws in the failed initiative, there was also an advertising problem. A mascot with a head in the shape of a marijuana leaf who went by the name of “Buddie,” turned off many. Adults construed the mascot as appealing to children, which does not bode well for the legalization of pot.

“I think definitely there were issues with the advertising, with a mascot that people didn’t really approve of,” said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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