Lehrer: Vote on marijuana ballot measure, but carefully consider the choices

Case Western Reserve United

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, every Case Western Reserve University student who is eligible to vote in Ohio should do so. Given that there are nothing but ballot measures to decide upon, this vote will especially allow your voice to be heard. This time, the ballot will contain two opposing initiatives: Issue 2 and Issue 3. Both purposefully contradict the other.

Issue 2 prohibits the establishment of monopolies or oligopolies in the commercialization of a product. Issue 3, in contrast, would allow 10 “marijuana growth, cultivation and extraction facilities” to be the sole profit making distributors of marijuana in Ohio. It would permit those 21 years or older to recreationally use marijuana, and share a maximum of one ounce with those also legally allowed to use it. In order to sell any more than the above amount, one must obtain a special government-issued license, which would enable them to sell up to eight ounces from personal growth. In addition medical marijuana will be permitted for use for anyone suffering from a certified disability. Because both measures undermine each other, the Ohio Constitution states that the one receiving the majority of votes wins.

What do I want you to do about it? Firstly, you should vote. It is your right; think about those denied this in undemocratic countries. You have the ability to influence change. And by change, I do not mean electing someone into office who runs with a party affiliation next to his or her name on the ballot. This is the real deal, a chance for everyone to have a say, without partisan lines being drawn.

Next, however, consider the issues. Deliberate on them before casting that vote. What is more important to you? What do you value? Do you support the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use above all else? Or do you worry about ‘big business’ and monopolization occurring under the conditions laid out in Issue 3?

It is important to keep these pros and cons in mind, and analyze the costs and benefits. Yes, our generation overwhelmingly supports the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. But even the popular Colorado law does not go to the extreme of creating of monopolies or oligopolies.

Allow me to lay out to you the common points raised for legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. On the side that supports it: substantial revenue can be amassed from regulation and enforcement, funds for the criminal justice system can be allocated elsewhere and not continue to influence the mass incarceration rates associated with the War on Drugs. It would debilitate an important financial source for organized crime entities, and the marijuana used will prove to be safer when regulated.

On the side that opposes it: marijuana may have addictive properties if chronically used, marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ toward more serious substances, like heroin, and marijuana has deleterious effects on brain and mental health. While research supports a number of the raised points by the opponents, very little evidence is readily available for the proponents, primarily because of the inability to conduct research due to legal restrictions.

I have my own biases. I will abstain from purporting them as much as possible. I want to empower the CWRU student body to vote, and not inundate them with my opinions on this issue. Thus I plead with you to vote, if nothing else.

Josh, a fourth-year student who considers himself left-leaning on social policy, is very conflicted about the specific issue of marijuana and drug policy. He will reflect upon and research Ohio’s 2015 ballot initiatives before heading to the polls on Election Day.