Libertarian Party of Ohio Opposes Responsible Ohio Cannabis Initiative

From the LPO website:

The Executive Committee of the Libertarian Party of Ohio voted unanimously to oppose the initiative to re-legalize cannabis for all purposes being launched by the group known as Responsible Ohio. The group is currently petitioning to place an initiative on the Ohio ballot which would create a closed system of 10 growing sites for the cultivation of cannabis in the state, a strictly-limited network of vendors and suppliers, and a provision for users to grow only a very small amount of cannabis for their own use.

Because the Libertarian Party has supported re-legalizing cannabis since the party’s inception in 1971, the LPO’s decision to oppose this particular measure is very significant. The party’s objection to the proposal stems from the crony-capitalist nature of the proposed legislation. The Responsible Ohio initiative would lock in the 10 particular growing sites, granting an effective monopoly to the investors who control those sites. Since the initiative is being offered as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution, any future change would also have to be done by means of a constitutional amendment, which would likely face well-financed opposition from the beneficiaries of this proposal.

“There is nothing ‘responsible’ about Responsible Ohio,” said LPO Political Director Tricia Sprankle. “This isn’t a proposal to restore rights to Ohioans. It’s a crony scheme to line the pockets of a few wealthy investors.”

Sprankle pointed out that the Responsible Ohio cannabis initiative parallels the casino gambling amendment that Ohioans were gulled into passing in 2009. That amendment granted a monopoly to a handful of large corporations to operate full casinos at just four sites in Ohio.

“Hopefully, the voters of Ohio have learned, and won’t be fooled a second time,” Sprankle said. “The LPO understands the desire to see cannabis prohibition end. We agree. But if Responsible Ohio’s initiative passes, Ohioans will still be getting busted for pot 20 years from now.”

Several other groups are also pursuing cannabis re-legalization in various forms, although none are benefiting from the support of the deep-pockets supporting the Responsible Ohio amendment. The LPO is reviewing these other options and will address the issue again soon.

“We counsel patience right now,” Sprankle concluded. “After three-quarters of a century of prohibition, it’s better to wait a little longer for a better, cleaner law than to grasp at the first opportunity and pay for it later.”

38 thoughts on “Libertarian Party of Ohio Opposes Responsible Ohio Cannabis Initiative

  1. langa

    This is a tough one. I think you could make very good libertarian arguments for or against this proposed law. In general, though, I think libertarians should try to avoid advocating “lesser of two evils” compromises, so I can understand why the Ohio LP would take this kind of position.

  2. Andy Craig

    I totally agree with the parts of the law they wanted to highlight their objection to, and I can see how “Libertarians Oppose Marijuana Initiative” might be a bit of a hook for that so it gets some attention. Maybe it even gets amended or improved, if that’s still a possibility. Outcry from the pro-legalization community has improved bad bills in other states.

    But still you’re right paulie, the more important immediate part is decriminalization. Concerns about cronyism and licensing and protectionism are important, but they don’t trump not putting as many innocent people in jail.

  3. Gene Berkman

    I have to agree with Paulie. If the “Responsible Ohio” initiative ends the practice of arresting, fining and/or jailing people for possession of marijuana, it is irresponsible to oppose it, unless there is already a better competing initiative currently qualified to collect signatures.

    I think the “crony capitalist” argument is overused. The proponents of the initiative are not creating the law that prevents people from growing – that law already exists. Legalizing possession and granting grow permits to a limited number of operators is better than leaving marijuana totally against the law in Ohio.

  4. Wes Wagner

    More evidence of republican infiltration. The best game theory choice on this would have been to take a neutral position and emphasize the parts of it you agree with … hope it fails and get a better draft next time.

  5. langa

    I agree that the law appears to be an improvement over the status quo. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is deserving of being endorsed by the LP. For example, a proposal to cut the taxes of one race (say, whites) by 50%, while leaving the tax rates exactly the same for all other races, would technically be an improvement over the status quo, but I doubt there would be very many people saying the LP should endorse such a proposal.

  6. paulie

    Maybe it even gets amended or improved, if that’s still a possibility. Outcry from the pro-legalization community has improved bad bills in other states.

    It’s an initiative, not a bill, and it’s already paying for signatures, so no, it will not be amended. It will either pass or not. The history of ending prohibition (of alcohol as well as marijuana) has involved many half measures and imperfect law improvements. What we have seen time and time again is that when and where we have made incremental improvements, it makes further improving the law afterwards easier, not harder. Making the perfect the enemy of the somewhat better destroys lives unjustly in the meantime and makes the perfect that much harder to achieve.

  7. paulie

    hope it fails and get a better draft next time.

    I don’t hope it fails. I hope it passes. If it passes, it makes it easier, not harder, to pass a better bill next time. To take a few of many examples, out of the states that have legalized recreational cannabis so far, Oregon, Washington and Colorado all passed medical marijuana first; DC actually did too, but Congress prevented the law from going into effect. Not sure about Alaska, I’ll have to check. But in most if not all cases they went medical first. If passing half-measures made it harder to pass better bills later, wouldn’t the first recreational states be non-medical marijuana states?

    Get your foot in the door, then inch forward. All or nothing is just a way to get nothing.

  8. paulie

    More evidence of republican infiltration.

    Dunno about that. I’ve heard many radical libertarians make them same (imo misguided) argument against incremental improvements and half measures. I think they are missing the bigger picture, but it’s not evidence that they are arguing in bad faith or are any kind of NSGOP plants. Not that it’s impossible, it’s just not evidence that they are. Their logic is perfectly understandable, just IMO faulty.

  9. paulie

    I agree that the law appears to be an improvement over the status quo. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is deserving of being endorsed by the LP. For example, a proposal to cut the taxes of one race (say, whites) by 50%, while leaving the tax rates exactly the same for all other races, would technically be an improvement over the status quo, but I doubt there would be very many people saying the LP should endorse such a proposal.

    I really don’t see that as analogous.

  10. Humongous Fungus

    Granted I would not support a tax break for one race only. What about getting rid of an existing disparity? For example, crack cocaine is treated much more harshly in sentencing than powder cocaine, which corresponds with a racial disparity among users and dealers. Would the LP support treating powder cocaine much more harshly so as to get rid of the racial disparity? I would hope not. Making crack less harshly punished would be the way to go.

    Currently, alcohol is taxed and regulated, and only some people are allowed to manufacture and sell it, and only under various conditions and during certain hours, etc. So would we consider supporting a measure to make alcohol illegal, because at least then everyone would be treated equally? Again I would hope not. Supporting continued marijuana prohibition on similar grounds is equally bad.

  11. Andy Craig

    “Congress prevented the law from going into effect [in DC]”

    Gee, I wonder what awful not-Libertarian did that….. oh, wait. Nevermind.

  12. langa

    What we have seen time and time again is that when and where we have made incremental improvements, it makes further improving the law afterwards easier, not harder.

    That may be true in many cases, but not all. In this case, since we’re talking about a constitutional amendment, I imagine it will be pretty hard to change it.

  13. paulie

    That may be true in many cases, but not all. In this case, since we’re talking about a constitutional amendment, I imagine it will be pretty hard to change it.

    Not really. Many state ballot measures are constitutional amendments. You just go in later and do another initiative. It’s not that hard, and it would need to be done again anyway if it fails this time, so it certainly would not make it any easier.

  14. paulie

    Gee, I wonder what awful not-Libertarian did that….. oh, wait. Nevermind.

    But he learned his lesson, became a changed man, and disavowed the political views he once hel… er, d’oh, that doesn’t work either. Dammit.

  15. Wes Wagner

    Sometimes passing a deficient bill hurts you because it blocks reconsideration of the issue. I was unaware Ohio was an initiative state… and this was not coming from the legislature. I change my position.. pass the initiative then go back for more but be ready for the cartel you created to oppose you like in California.

  16. langa

    Would the LP support treating powder cocaine much more harshly so as to get rid of the racial disparity? I would hope not.

    I agree with you, although I have seen some libertarians so committed to “equality for the sake of equality” that they probably would support harsher penalties, if it were a choice between that and the status quo. In fact, I have used this exact example to illustrate that libertarianism is not really concerned with equality, at least not per se.

    …would we consider supporting a measure to make alcohol illegal, because at least then everyone would be treated equally? Again I would hope not. Supporting continued marijuana prohibition on similar grounds is equally bad.

    I don’t think anyone is “supporting” continued prohibition. I’m certainly not. I’m just saying that in order to be worthy of an endorsement from the LP, a proposal ought to have to pass some threshold, beyond just being a marginal improvement over the status quo.

  17. Andy Craig

    “I have used this exact example to illustrate that libertarianism is not really concerned with equality, at least not per se.”

    I think that’s a fairly atypical and implausible example, though. The libertarian case for legal egalitarianism, a la “equal protection of the laws,” is that it is almost always (if not always) invoked against the government and in favor of an individual whose rights are being violated in an arbitrary manner. If the government has to “treat similarly situated persons similarly”, which is one common formulation of the principle, then that is indeed a very substantive check on how much they can get away with. Kind of like how some Libertarians might properly construe freedom of speech as a subset of property rights, but that doesn’t mean the 1st Amendment is wrong or unimportant.

    The rule of lenity is also such that I don’t think it’s even possible for somebody to get a harsher sentence or charge by operation of egalitarian legal principles, at least not in court. Maybe through the political process, in theory the politicians could start locking up more rich white kids for drugs. But that doesn’t seem terribly likely, to say the least. This is a ratchet effect that goes in the other direction, in our favor for once.

  18. Andy Craig

    ” I’m just saying that in order to be worthy of an endorsement from the LP, a proposal ought to have to pass some threshold, beyond just being a marginal improvement over the status quo.”

    I would agree with that, but this isn’t just an endorsement, it’s a condemnation, and the improvements at stake aren’t marginal.

    I think they made their point very well, and I like that they’re raising these issues. But going so far as to tell people to vote No on it, when it would stop a lot of the incarceration and arrests, does seem too far and unjustified.

    I think the comparison to alcohol laws are apt- by every conceivable standard state liquor laws are an unholy abomination of special-interest rent-seeking and arbitrary diktats. But that doesn’t make it worse than Prohibition.

  19. Starchild

    Given the momentum for cannabis legalization right now, and the fact that there are other efforts underway in Ohio to re-legalize the drug, according to the article, I think the Ohio LP made the right decision in this situation, and I commend them for it. Their political director Tricia Sprankle put it very well in the final paragraph:

    ““We counsel patience right now. After three-quarters of a century of prohibition, it’s better to wait a little longer for a better, cleaner law than to grasp at the first opportunity and pay for it later.”

    In 2010, I supported Proposition 19 to legalize cannabis in California, but in retrospect I am glad the measure failed. Current law is only a $100 fine for possession of less than an ounce; Prop. 19 would have removed that fine, but at a great cost in terms of new taxes and regulations and additional criminal penalties for driving and use around minors, etc., such that many growers, sellers, and users would have still fallen through the cracks. I think the public support will be there in 2016 to pass a better initiative; the challenge will simply be getting it to the ballot.

    The refrain about not making the perfect the enemy of the good is familiar, but we should also be mindful not to make the good the enemy of the better. If this so-called “Responsible Ohio” measure passes, the owners of the 10 legal grow sites will soon be flush with profits which they will likely use to block any subsequent reform measure that threatens their privileged status.

  20. Matt Cholko

    I think I agree with langa and Starchild. This is not, as I see it, a case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Its a case of trading one problem for another.

  21. Joshua Katz

    It’s a tough call. Halfway measures, as Paulie says, are often the way to get things done – but if they have other victims (rather than just being ‘not good enough’) the situation is less clear. It’s analogous, maybe, to the old philosophy class example of a train barreling down the track to a switch, which you can pull or not – and there’s people on both sides of the switch.

    Most successful liberation movements have been, in some way, oppressive. When legalizing interracial marriage, proponents were quick to add “but we’re not advocating that marriage extend to perverts and deviants.” Today, the marriage equality movement is quick to add “but not polygamy.” Now, this doesn’t make things materially worse for the group left out, but it has significant problems, among them making it harder for that group in the future and the cementing of certain norms. I suspect that part of the reason marriage equality has gone from a fringe issue to a done deal is that conservative elements of the population believe that gays are more promiscuous, and that this will cause the gay community to adopt more middle-class, suburban norms. Or maybe I’m just cynical.

    But crony capitalist laws may well have a material impact as well. There’s also the problem of going to the negotiating table having already lost. If you show up with the position “legalize and regulate in this oppressive way” where exactly do you go next in the negotiation?

    In the end, the only way we make progress in the legislative system is through compromise, but it’s not always easy to choose which compromises are worth making.

  22. langa

    The rule of lenity is also such that I don’t think it’s even possible for somebody to get a harsher sentence or charge by operation of egalitarian legal principles, at least not in court. Maybe through the political process, in theory the politicians could start locking up more rich white kids for drugs. But that doesn’t seem terribly likely, to say the least. This is a ratchet effect that goes in the other direction, in our favor for once.

    From a practical standpoint, I agree that it’s highly unlikely. But from a theoretical standpoint, I think this example provides a good reminder that libertarians should always analyze any policy proposal in terms of its effect on freedom, rather than equality (or any other value).

  23. langa

    I think they made their point very well, and I like that they’re raising these issues. But going so far as to tell people to vote No on it, when it would stop a lot of the incarceration and arrests, does seem too far and unjustified.

    Well, as I said in my original comment, I think it’s debatable whether this would be enough of an improvement to warrant an endorsement. I wouldn’t have minded if the Ohio LP had chosen to support it, but I also don’t mind that they chose to oppose it, either.

    If I had been in charge, I probably would have issued a more neutral press release, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the initiative, as well as discussing the many problems of the current system and some of the benefits of a more consistent legalization plan, without explicitly telling people whether they should vote for or against this particular plan.

  24. Nicholas Sarwark

    Given where public opinion has gone on this issue, there’s not much good reason to push an initiative that’s more restrictive than Colorado’s.

  25. Andy Craig

    What are this thing’s chances of getting on the ballot? They need 305,591 signatures (10% of last Governor’s election). That seems towards the high end, no pun intended.

    Does make me wish we had initiative & referendum in Wisconsin. We do at the local level, but for state law and the state constitution there’s no way to bypass the legislature, and they like it that way.

  26. Matt Cholko

    Actually, in a petition drive of that size, there must be hundreds of thousands of dollars of administrative costs involved too. So, maybe $2MM or more.

  27. paulie

    fact that there are other efforts underway in Ohio to re-legalize the drug,

    Those other efforts don’t have anywhere near the amount of money to get on the ballot, much less pass.

    In 2010, I supported Proposition 19 to legalize cannabis in California, but in retrospect I am glad the measure failed. Current law is only a $100 fine for possession of less than an ounce

    I don’t think it is just a fine in Ohio. And I would still support Prop 19 if we had it to do over, although yes, I will be happy if the next version is better. Ohio is a lot harder to get an issue on the ballot than California though, so if they don’t succeed this time there may be more of a lag until they try again.

    we should also be mindful not to make the good the enemy of the better.

    Better is not on the table. The only other thing on the table is the status quo, which is much, much worse.

  28. paulie

    But crony capitalist laws may well have a material impact as well. There’s also the problem of going to the negotiating table having already lost. If you show up with the position “legalize and regulate in this oppressive way” where exactly do you go next in the negotiation?

    Make the restrictions less restrictive over time. It’s not some mystery. Look at the history of ending alcohol prohibition. Many states relegalized alcohol on a very regulated basis, then over time many have loosened a lot of those regulations. Many alcohol regulations still remain. Should we have held out support for ending alcohol prohibition because of these regulations? We’d still have shootouts between liquor gangs and people going blind and dying from rotgut bathtub booze.

  29. paulie

    Most successful liberation movements have been, in some way, oppressive. When legalizing interracial marriage, proponents were quick to add “but we’re not advocating that marriage extend to perverts and deviants.”

    Let me see if I can follow where that logic leads. We should have opposed ending restrictions on so-called interracial marriage back then, because LGBT folks were still not allowed to marry for several more decades? And we should oppose marriage equality now, because poly folks are not yet included? By that logic we would still support bans on “interracial” marriage right now. After all, we still haven’t reached a point where we can effectively push for poly marriage to be legalized.

  30. paulie

    Given where public opinion has gone on this issue, there’s not much good reason to push an initiative that’s more restrictive than Colorado’s.

    Ohio is not as evolved on the issue as Colorado yet. The big money behind these types of initiatives hinges on extensive polling as to what can realistically pass as well as experience with what happens when opponents roll out various shopworn lines of attack and back them with plenty of money and astroturf.

  31. paulie

    What are this thing’s chances of getting on the ballot? They need 305,591 signatures (10% of last Governor’s election). That seems towards the high end, no pun intended.

    It will get on the ballot. The petition companies involved wouldn’t work on it if the money was not there to see it through.

  32. paulie

    Actually, in a petition drive of that size, there must be hundreds of thousands of dollars of administrative costs involved too. So, maybe $2MM or more.

    I am thinking even more than that. There are several levels of petition contractors and subcontractors all taking a big bite, and the street price will go way up as the petition gets burned out towards the end.

  33. Joshua Katz

    >Let me see if I can follow where that logic leads. We should have opposed ending restrictions >on so-called interracial marriage back then, because LGBT folks were still not allowed to marry >for several more decades? And we should oppose marriage equality now, because poly folks >are not yet included? By that logic we would still support bans on “interracial” marriage right >now. After all, we still haven’t reached a point where we can effectively push for poly marriage >to be legalized.

    No, I made that observation for the opposite reason. Again, I’m not arguing for either side, just saying it’s complicated. My point in bringing up the fact that successful liberation movements tend to be repressive in other ways is to say, well, maybe there’s a reason for that, and we have to take success where it is. On other hand…there’s the rest of my points.

    In short – people suffering in various sorts of pain will not like the idea of “being patient for now.” People who intend to go into the marijuana business might. Libertarianism persay doesn’t give us all that much guidance on weighing competing claims when both involve “I don’t want to be aggressed against.” You have to make a practical judgment, which we’ll frequently differ on. Not being in Ohio, I defer to the LP Ohio to determine which is the right call.

    Interracial marriage, I should add, was not only anti-LGBT, it also had its own racist strains. A part of its success rested on “we’ll be good, we’ll adopt white values, we won’t behave like those other [redacted].” MLK used the same tactic to support his non-violence. History is anything but cut and dry.

  34. Deran

    My two cents from WA State. Our state was an early prohibitor of alcohol, and slow to dismantle it. In my life time there were laws against bewing beer in ones home. The same situation applies to cannabis, Iniative 502 was imperfect fro my viwq, but it has kept people out of jail, and this law has literally kept people from dieing in custody for cannabis related crimes. I did not think 502 would impact my life. So I was rather lukewarm abt it. But in June of 2012 a 22 year old man doed from an extreme food allergy he had during a one day in jail he was required to do because he had missed a judicial hearing regarding a msdemeanor cannabis offense.

    “The day before he died, Saffioti had turned himself into Lynnwood police for missing a court date on a misdemeanor pot bust.”

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/video-shows-man-dying-jail-cell-food-allergy-guards-article-1.1509408

    There is some ghastly video that was released via FOIA of the man dieing as the jail guards stand around and gawk. I have not watched it, I have a vivid imagination. But whatever this felow’s personal issues, he died because he was in jail related to a cannabis crime. That’s when I decided that as flawed as it was 502 was important to vote for. It would keep other people from dieing in jail (not to say that the jail staff/cops aren’t despicable in their behavior).

    So, my socialist view is that it is most useful to keep people out of jail or interaction with law enforcement. I would sign the petition for and vote for even this imperfect bill in Ohio if it could keep people out of jail and out of the clutches of law enforcement.

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