To look at news coverage, you’d think the next election in America will come in November 2016. But there’s actually one coming a lot sooner than that: this Nov. 3.
National elections, of course, fall every two years. Presidential candidates run for four-year terms, while members of Congress run for two-year terms and senators run for staggered six-year terms. With the exception of special elections to the House or Senate, there are no nationwide elections in odd-numbered years.
Tell that to poll workers. The 2015 election will see a number of statewide races across the country, as well as votes on several major issues. One of them is marijuana.
Indeed, if things go activists’ way, they will add another state to the tally of those where cannabis is legal for any adult use. There are already four – Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Colorado – along with the District of Columbia.
Support is strong
The only major marijuana-based vote will be on the ballot in Ohio. There, a group called ResponsibleOhio is pushing a campaign to legalize the drug statewide.
Public support for the idea is strong, according to recent polls, but there are plenty of hurdles nonetheless. For one thing, the state is run almost exclusively by Republicans, and they usually oppose legalization. For another, Ohioans have yet to adopt medical marijuana, meaning voters will be asked to jump from full illegality to full legalization, all in one election.
That poses problems, but they haven’t been enough to sink the plan yet. The biggest danger lies on the ballot itself.
Competing anti-monopoly ballot initiative
Anti-marijuana crusaders are themselves pushing a ballot initiative, one that would ostensibly ban business monopolies under Ohio’s state constitution. The real intent is to kill cannabis reform, since the legalization proposal would establish a semi-monopolistic industry for the cultivation, processing, and sale of legal marijuana.
Cannabis proponents are arguing for Issue 3, which would license several businesses to cultivate marijuana at 10 sites across the state and then sell it at a limited number of dispensaries owned by the same businesses.
This vertically oriented industry model would almost certainly conflict with Issue 2, the ballot item being pushed by cannabis opponents. This proposal would prohibit any monopolistic business from operating in Ohio. The ramifications of this plan could be huge for both business and marijuana concerns but haven’t been explored in much depth by politicians or reporters.
It’s unclear what would happen if both issues pass – and polls suggest they will. At least one observer has predicted a “constitutional crisis” with no clear solution. Ohio has no mechanism for dealing with conflict in the state constitution.
Observers aren’t laying many bets on ResponsibleOhio’s proposal. Given the chaos and negative publicity, many predict it will fail, whether at the ballot or afterwards. But whether it passes or dies, it’s a sign times are changing.
Elsewhere, the 2015 election is mostly free of marijuana-related issues. Only three states – Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky – will elect governors Nov. 3, and there are no substantial campaigns to legalize the drug in any of them.
Even so, this year’s outcomes could give a glimpse of what’s coming in 2016. If the past is a guide, that should be quite a lot.