The legalization of marijuana has some complicated and wide-reaching ramifications for the business community. As the Columbus Chamber of Commerce learned more about the proposal, we felt compelled to take a stance and educate the community on our decision to oppose Issue 3, also known as the ResponsibleOhio proposal.
First, you should know that we have a formal process when taking a stance on political issues. We don’t endorse candidates, but we do endorse levies and ballot initiatives. The decision to weigh in on Issue 3 was initiated by the Chamber’s Government Relations Steering Committee and later decided by our Board of Directors.
Marijuana isn’t our sole focus; we are mainly concerned about the laws around how the legalization of marijuana would impact the business community. Like our President and CEO Michael Dalby said in a recent press release, “This could be about selling turnips and we’d still feel the same way.”
After hearing presentations from ResponsibleOhio and its opponents, three important conclusions influenced our position on Issue 3:
1) Issue 3 would only allow 10 commercial grow sites, which have been given to ResponsibleOhio investors. This essentially creates a monopolistic situation where this small group is allowed to permanently carve out their own interests in the Ohio constitution.
2) Issue 3 includes a provision that requires all employers to accommodate employees who have a medical marijuana certificate. This puts employers in a delicate situation between state law and federal law. Accommodating medical marijuana certificates directly contradicts a host of federal labor standards including OSHA, ADA, Drug-Free Workplace Act and many others. Twenty-three states have legalized marijuana in some form, most for medicinal purposes, but Ohio would be the only state to have this provision.
3) Issue 3 is written as an amendment to the Ohio constitution. We feel the constitution is not an appropriate place to make these kinds of code changes. Amending the constitution can have a domino effect on tax rates, workforce and other areas that directly impact our economy. The Columbus Chamber has a history of opposing efforts that attempt this strategy and this time is no different.
To date we know of no groups supporting the amendment, but there is a long list of groups that oppose ResponibleOhio’s plan. This list is comprised of some surprising bedfellows, including marijuana activist groups, the Ohio Farm Bureau, children’s health advocates, faith groups, The Ohio Manufacturers Association, state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and many other business organizations.
Our concerns are about creating safe work environments and protecting our constitution. Because of these reasons, the Columbus Chamber urges you to get informed on Issue 3 before heading to the polls this year.