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What Impact Would Marijuana Initiative Have on Business In Ohio?

Backers of the marijuana legalization constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot next month say there are good jobs at stake. Opponents fear passage would hurt Ohio’s business climate. In the third part of her five part series on Issue 3, Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles takes a look at the effect the amendment could have on jobs in Ohio.  

If you talk to Ian James of ResponsibleOhio, he’ll tell you passage of the proposed marijuana legalization amendment, which includes 10 growing sites and 1100 retail stores, will create more than ten thousand jobs. 

“There’ll be 3000 at the grow facilities, union workers with union wages, $25 an hour average wages, and over 8000 jobs in the retail side, not even talking about the testing facilities, manufacturers or marijuana dispensaries,” James says.

James says those jobs that are directly created through this plan will infuse the economy with money so people can buy more and that would create countless additional jobs in other industries.  It is estimated that one out of every seven jobs in Ohio is tied to agriculture and if this passes, there would be more farmers at those new pot growing facilities. But Ohio’s farmers are solidly against the plan. Both the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the smaller, more progressive, Ohio Farmers Union, have publicly opposed it. The promise of thousands of good paying jobs isn’t enough to convince some community leaders to back the plan. Matt DiTemple with the Ohio Township Association says his statewide organization has voted to oppose the issue because it could lead to more dangerous workplaces.

“Townships as employers, you know some of our people operate heavy machinery, and you need people with clear heads to do that, and it could already be tough to get people employed who can pass a drug test and with this, making it legal, that just might create some issues with having people at work who are clear headed,” DiTemple says.

Other groups that might normally back businesses and job creation are coming out against this proposal. In fact, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is putting $100,000 into the campaign opposing Issue 3. Chamber Director Andy Doehrel says one big reason is it would create uncertainty and tie the hands of Ohio’s businesses.

“Doctors would be able to give a medical certificate, not even a prescription, that would say marijuana could be used in the workplace and employers would be forced to accommodate that, that’s the words that would be used in the constitution, to accommodate it in the workplace and that creates a huge danger and problem for employers,” Doehrel says. 
Not true, says ResponsibleOhio’s Ian James.

“If anybody is telling my friend, Andy Doehrel, that he’s going to have this whole new process where patients are going to be able to dictate employment law, they are sadly mistaken and they are misleading my friend,” James says.

James says Ohio’s laws will allow still allow workplaces to test for drugs and set rules for marijuana use, just as they currently can for nicotine use. Speaking of consuming nicotine, would passage of this proposal have any impact on Ohio’s ban on smoking in public places? Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus says his state also has a smoking ban in public places. And legalized marijuana has presented a challenge for police.

“They are writing way more, police here in Denver, public consumption tickets, way more than they ever have in the past.  And I think that’s partly because of a weird quirk in Denver. We don’t have anywhere to smoke it if you are from out of town and don’t have a legal residence,” Markus explains.

Markus says it appears Colorado voters will have to fix that soon by approving a plan to make it legal to smoke on patios in bars. If Issue 3 passes, James says it’s not like voters will lose their say in how it affects them.  He says local voters can determine whether to allow retail stores and how many to allow. He says the more stores allowed, the more revenue the community gets.  And unlike the constitutional amendment that allowed casinos, he says lawmakers and voters can also determine the future of marijuana growth in their communities. James says while this proposal allows for 10 specified growing sites at the onset, more can be added in the future.  James says there’s another factor to consider here – exclusivity. All of Ohio’s neighboring states have casinos. But with pot, it’s different. Michigan is currently the only state contiguous to Ohio that allows for marijuana right now…and it only allows it for medicinal purposes.

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