Ohio lesson: Don’t monopolize cannabis

There’s a big lesson for California in the crushing defeat of Ohio’s cannabis initiative:

People don't vote for big business.

The Ohio initiative, known to voters as “Issue 3” on the ballot, was rejected by margins of two-to-one, despite a $12 million campaign funded by celebrities like pop singer Nick Lachey and fashion designer Nanette Lepore.

Celebrity cash wasn’t enough to overcome the real problem with the Ohio proposal.

It opened the door for monopolies to move in and consolidate the cannabis industry. 

This should be a warning to celebrities like Sean Parker, the former Facebook president and many others who will soon be collecting signatures for an initiative on California’s ballot:

Don’t jam us with a measure that lets big cannabis monopolies crush the legacy farmer.

Right now, Parker and his friends are in danger of making an Ohio-style mistake. Their proposed initiative lacks protection against abuses.

If Parker wants to win, he needs strong language against consolidation. Like the Blue Ribbon Commission Report said: "It is appropriate and probably wise for the state of California to adopt a path that limits the size and power—both economic and political—of any one entity in the marijuana industry.”

Ohio doesn’t have the multi-generational cannabis heritage of California. But voters from Cleveland to Cincinnati knew the danger of letting 10 big growers control the industry.

A slick, well-funded campaign didn’t fool enough people.

In California, we already have consensus to reject monopolies. Legislation signed by Gov. Brown placed limits on industrialized consolidation. 

The new law reflects the state’s determination to protect against the abuse of monopolies. Under the legislation, legacy growers and heritage businesses have time to transition to regulation and compliance. 

For any initiative to succeed in California, it must follow the lead established by the governor and legislature.

It must protect our state against big cannabis. Consolidation and monopolies will destroy communities up and down the golden state.

The initiative process gives California a chance to restore justice to thousands of families who have been torn apart by the injustice of prohibition. 

But the road to justice doesn’t run through big corporations who want to monopolize our industry and make billions at the expense of everybody else.