Ohio’s marijuana legalization ballot measure, explained – Vox – Updated by German Lopez on October 30, 2015, 10:40 a.m. ET

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This November, Ohio will vote on whether to become the biggest state to fully legalize marijuana. But the measure is very different from what’s come out of other legal pot states — and not in a good way, according to drug policy experts and legalization advocates.

Ohio is already an unexpected candidate for full legalization compared with the four legal pot states. It isn’t especially progressive like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state, or libertarian like Alaska. It doesn’t even have medical marijuana yet, although it was one of the states to decriminalize pot back in the 1970s.

But what’s truly unusual is how Ohio’s Issue 3, as the legalization measure is called, is structured. It doesn’t just legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes; it puts the wealthy contributors for the legalization campaign in charge of growing all the pot in the state — as an explicit gift for their support. That hasn’t just rankled opponents of legalization, it has also pushed away some of the major national advocacy groups that would typically back a marijuana legalization measure.

The distinction has left even supporters of legalization wondering: Is ending the failed war on marijuana worth locking Ohio into a potentially disastrous system of legalization?

Ohio’s measure puts the campaign’s wealthy donors in charge of all the state’s pot farms

Nick Lachey, who has rights to one of Ohio's marijuana farms, speaks to Extra.D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra
Nick Lachey’s next business endeavor could be marijuana.

Under the measure, Ohioans 21 and older will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in general and, with a $50 license, up to four flowering marijuana plants per household and up to 8 ounces of pot in their homes. Ohioans won’t be able to use pot in public spaces. The limits are fairly typical for a pot initiative — Alaska, for instance, allows adults 21 and older to possess up to 2 ounces of pot and up to six marijuana plants, and doesn’t allow public consumption.

Where Ohio’s measure really differs from other states is how marijuana is commercially produced.

Knowing that a ballot measure would be very expensive, ResponsibleOhio, the group behind the state’s legalization measure, structured its initiative to reward the top contributors to the campaign — and therefore get them on board. As a result, the state will only allow 10 marijuana farms, and more than 20 wealthy contributors signed on to the campaign will get guaranteed licenses to all 10 sites. These contributors vary — ranging from 98 Degrees band member Nick Lachey to the local Taft family.

The contributors and future pot farm owners vary — ranging former 98 Degrees band member Nick Lachey to the local Taft family

These 10 farms will then sell marijuana to more than 1,100 retail outlets, nonprofit medical dispensaries, and manufacturers. The measure charges a regulatory commission with overseeing all of these businesses, with a particular focus on making sure that Ohio’s demand for marijuana is met by the industry.

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