Legalisation? Yes, but not at any cost!


Legalisation? Yes, but not at any cost!

5 November 2015
Peter Sarosi

Issue 3, the cannabis legalisation initiative in Ohio, failed on Tuesday. This may appear surprising in the middle of a wave of support for marijuana legalisation, but it does not mean that the people of Ohio opted for prohibition. According to polls, a majority supported the legal regulation of cannabis. They only rejected the concept of a constitutionally-mandated oligopoly to control the legal cannabis market. Issue 3 would have introduced a system whereby only a few large companies were permitted to grow and distribute marijuana. The initiative divided drug policy reformers in North America. The Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project abstained from endorsing the measure, but NORML, the oldest marijuana reform organisation, offered a grudging endorsement, with the reservation that an oligopoly was a bad idea.

As Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance, wrote in his CNN opinion piece, “There's something in a constitutionally-mandated oligopoly for an agricultural product, that just seems un-American”. Well, as a European, I think there's also something very un-European about it. It simply seems unfair to restrict marijuana production to a handful of big corporations, when that restriction can only be modified by amending the constitution. Allocation of licences should be done by fair and open competition.

The supporters of Issue 3 also had valid arguments on their side. Marc Emery, the self-proclaimed Canadian 'Prince of pot', wrote, on his Facebook page, “We fight to stop arrest and punishment and prison. Any measure that moves us from complete prohibition to less prohibition / legalisation, thats what an activist does. A true activist cannot stop that consistent and worthy goal, just because someone they don't approve of is unworthy or undeserving in making money.”

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC K Hitt