The way monopolies and marijuana could intertwine was the focus of a panel discussion Tuesday at Lorain County Community College, where two state issues were under the microscope.
Issue 2 seeks to make it harder for voters to approve the creation of corporate cartels by amending the Ohio Constitution.
It was drafted by a General Assembly resolution in response to Issue 3, which aims to legalize pot but has been criticized as a cash-grab that would put growing and sales operations in the hands of one company, ResponsibleOhio.
Six experts were called upon by the League of Women Voters of the Oberlin area to speak on the complex issue that will be decided Nov. 3 at the polls.
Steven Steinglass, dean emeritus and professor emeritus of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law of Cleveland State University, said Issue 2 would limit grassroots pushes for Constitutional amendments.
The Ohio Constitution was adopted in 1851 and has been amended 166 times, Steinglass said.
“The version of Issue 2 that is before the people will require both the monopolistic and the substance of the monopoly to be before the voters,” he said. “It’ll make it much harder to sort of disguise the monopolistic feature of a monopoly or a rate increase if that is buried in a different proposal.”
If adopted, Issue 2 will require the Ohio Ballot Board to rule on whether any proposed initiative would create a monopoly or a special privilege for any group except the government.
If so, voters could still pass it — as long as they also passed a second issue calling the first measure a monopoly that violates Article II of the Ohio Constitution.
Voters would still have the opportunity to vote and approve monopolies, changes in tax rates, and anything else they want put in the Constitution, Steinglass said.
“There’s no doubt that Issue 2 is written in such a way so that if one looks at it literally there is a conflict with Issue 3,” he said.
Lorain County commissioner Ted Kalo said the writing of Issue 2 was rushed in just 10 days.
Sri Kavury, president and co-founder of Ohio to End Prohibition, said Issue 2 was not developed in a couple of days. Legislators started talking about in 2013.
“It’s going to change how we take initiatives to the ballot,” Kalo said. “Issue 2 really concerns me. There wasn’t enough thought put into it and it’s almost a 99.5 percent partisan issue.”
He called Issue 2 a “shotgun approach” by state legislators to shoot down ResponsibleOhio’s attempt at marijuana legalization.
The local League of Women Voters chapter has endorsed Issue 2 “because it protects the constitution as a document of general principles,” yet remains neutral on Issue 3.
Issue 2 has wide support but not with the Ohio Rights Group, which has roots right here in Lorain County.
Its board of directors called it a “thinly-veiled attempt by the Ohio General Assembly to further handicap participation by ‘We the People’ in the democratic process,” and warned that if adopted Issue 2 will make it nearly impossible for future citizen-led campaigns to put issues before voters.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Steven Steinglass, dean emeritus of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law of Cleveland State University, breaks down what Issue 2 means for voters and initiatives to amend the Ohio Constitution in the future if passed.