Russ Belville and Dan Riffle on Ohio Issue 3

My friends Russ Belville and Dan Riffle discuss the details of Ohio’s Issue 3, a cannabis legalization measure, thoughtfully and civilly. They start at the 28:15 mark here (URL, and go to about the 1:06:00 mark.

Here are some notes, taken while listening. (I appreciate Russ having me on his show, but I agree more with Dan here.)

Dan says Issue 3 is “anti-democratic” and “anti-capitalistic.” Well, it’s democratic to the extent that voters decide, but so is the decision to install a permanent, hereditary dictator by ballot: “One person. One vote. One time.” The notion that a new Constitutional amendment will take away vested rights does not add up to me. I would think the ten cartel bosses would have a claim that they have property rights that cannot be taken away without compensation under the Due Process Clause of the Federal Constitution. That would make an amendment extremely costly for the state. But I agree that crony capitalism, as Jacob Sullum calls Issue 3, is not capitalism at all.

Russ says, “Civil rights trump business plans.” I would instead say, “Civic duty trumps business scams.” My take on civic duty is that we need to allow government the flexibility to adjust the tax rate, and we need not to allow these wealthy cartel people to set their own tax rates in perpetuity. Also, I think income inequality is so bad that we need to share the wealth – or at least that voters have a civic duty not to require government to funnel wealth into a tiny number of hands.  But those are value judgments, and I understand Russ’s viewpoint.

Dan, a former Ohio prosecutor, points out that Ohio law today is much less severe than the law in places like Oklahoma or Louisiana.

Russ points to other states that don’t allow many licenses. Dan points out that licensees in those states don’t have the Constitution preventing new entrants from competing with protected businesses.

Russ says, “Every legalization plan . . . has brought out critics saying, ‘This is just not good enough.’” That’s true for some people, but I didn’t say that about Washington, Colorado, or Oregon’s 2014 Measure 91. When it came to Oregon’s 2012 Measure 80, I was skeptical, but didn’t say it was not good enough. But that failed 2012 Oregon deal was not permanent – the Legislature could amend it. Ohio’s Issue 3 fails the flexibility test. That’s a show-stopper for me. I rate it dead last among all those proposals. Ohio’s Issue 3 is the first time I’ve said, “not good enough.”

Dan: “It’s a close call. . . . Rational people and rational minds can disagree.”

Dan and Russ both dislike Ohio Issue 2.

Both find fault with the Issue 3 campaign’s use of “Buddie,” a marijuana mascot.

About the arguments that the Issue 3 campaign makes, that there are too many suppliers in Colorado, and that a small number of suppliers, like a cartel, is easier to regulate: Russ says there is a “legitimate point” – but there is seed to sale tracking, with cameras in Colorado, so regulation is doing pretty well there.

Russ’s final argument: If your mother were dying of cancer and needed marijuana for medicine, wouldn’t you vote Yes?

There’s much more here. Truly worth a listen if you think about the How of legalization.


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