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Big Pot Crashes and Burns in Ohio

Ohio's obnoxious marijuana legalization initiative went down to a crushing defeat yesterday, Christopher Ingraham reports in the WaPo.

Voters rejected the measure with 64 percent opposed and only 36 percent in favor. It was defeated in every single one of Ohio's 88 counties, some of which voted against the bill by huge margins, according to preliminary numbers: 55 percentage points in Holmes County. 60 in Mercer. 65 in Putnam.

The bill was likely doomed to fail from the get-go for a variety of reasons. It was an off-off election year, where voters are older and more conservative. Ohio has never exactly been a bastion of marijuana culture. And most crucially, the bill would have created a state-mandated oligopoly on the production of marijuana, with a handful of the measure's wealthy backers as the primary beneficiaries.
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One reason national reform groups were so hesitant to back the measure, and so quick to denounce it, is that the measure seemed to confirm legalization opponents' worst fears about the rise of "Big Marijuana" -- an heir to the tobacco industry of old, focused on maximizing profits at the expense of public health. Playing right into this fear, the initiative's backers sent a marijuana-themed superhero mascot named "Buddy" -- reminiscent to many of Joe Camel -- on a tour of Ohio college campuses.

Legalization opponents have capitalized on these concerns. As Josiah M. Hesse wrote in Politico earlier this week, "the Ohio legalization effort has been a godsend to anti-marijuana groups." Last night, a jubilant Kevin Sabet of Project SAM seemed to confirm this on Twitter ... In an email, Sabet added "this has galvanized our folks in terms of what the winning message is. If we make this about all the money to be made - which is why SAM started in the first place (to spread the message of Big Pot) - then we win. We're going to keep pounding that."

In the end, in other words, the deeply flawed Ohio reform effort may have had the perverse effect of strengthening legalization opponents' hand.
I will reiterate what I said in the previous post, that I consider Big Pot and mass marketing a much greater threat than legalization as such.  This initiative was by far the worst of any we have seen, and it showed the pot merchants at their naked, greedy worst.

Lest anyone think that the opposition is purely "conservative," BTW, the co-founder of Project SAM is former congressman Patrick Kennedy, Jr. of Rhode Island.

The WaPo is correct, I think, that this being an "off-off year election" was a factor, though in a landslide like this it would not have made a difference.  Low turnout is often bemoaned, yet it regularly makes for better results.  Voting is a civic duty, and the people who vote whether they are excited about the election or not tend to be people with a sense of personal responsibility.  They tend to make better choices than those who only vote when they are swept up in a big, emotional campaign.  Our society has correctly gotten rid of most of the old barriers to voting, but the drive to practically drag people to the polls is just crazy.  People who are not motivated enough to take simple steps to register and vote probably are not motivated to inform themselves on the issues and candidates, and society is better off if they do not vote.

Issue 2 on the Ohio ballot, which would prohibit writing any market monopolies into the state constitution, appears to have passed narrowly, 52-48 as of this time.  This is a case where the greater proportion of persons of sense in a low turnout election might have made the difference.

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