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Featured Blog: Issue 3 is done, time 4 change

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It’s time for a concerted effort to decriminalize petty drug crimes and simple possession of marijuana. Issue 3 didn’t pass, but don’t for a second believe that’s because a majority of Ohioans don’t want legalized marijuana or a reformed criminal justice system.

The measure, which would have created a monopoly of growth sites in Ohio for the cultivation of marijuana, was struck down by an impressive and, to some, surprising margin. Sixty-four percent of Ohio voters united to strike down the measure, but the message derived from that shouldn’t be that they all just didn’t want legalized marijuana. Plenty of left-leaning voters expressed very particular qualms with ResponsibleOhio. The organization pumped millions into an effort to set up 10 growth sites and fell flat on its face due to anti-monopoly AND anti-drug use sentiment.

But enough about the failures of Issue 3. It’s not indicative of the desire to and necessity of changing existing laws on the books.

Mass incarceration is at the tip of the tongues of so many who are invested in criminal justice reform, and one of the most basic ways to address the matter would be through the lessening of punishments for petty drug crimes.

In a nation where one in eight federal drug prisoners are serving time for offenses related to marijuana, wouldn’t reducing the resources poured into punishing individuals and contributing to the degradation of lives in communities that are traditionally less affluent make more sense? Specifically, we’re talking about communities that have been targeted for enforcement directly because of the existence of black and brown residents. This happens in Ohio too; don’t try and distance yourselves from it, Ohioans.

Take a look at this nifty page put together by the National Organization for Marijuana Reform Laws, an organization that aims to decriminalize marijuana. Possessing half a pound of marijuana, regardless of intent to sell, should not result in people being put behind bars and away from their families. No, it is not deserved, and no, the attitude of “they know what was going to happen to them if they did it” shouldn’t have to apply here. Change the laws on the books.

Issue 3 not passing is not the go ahead to move on from the issue of legalizing marijuana.  Drastically reducing sentences for those who commit petty drug crimes is a priority. Instead, laws must change to reduce the penalties incurred for possessing minor amounts of pot. Cost-effective, common sense, non-damaging drug related criminal justice reform should be at the front of the political conversation in Ohio right this moment.

Political participation is not limited to voting on the matter. Too many people feared that failing to decriminalize marijuana through this most recent ballot issue would, for some reason, be the only chance for a while to change the laws because of the money involved in putting together such a ballot issue. This battle is not over. Change in how Ohio’s criminal justice system responds to possession of marijuana is needed right this moment. There is power in a movement of people gathering to call for change. Make it happen.

Issue 3 wasn’t the answer. Ohioans will come up with a better one. It’s only a matter of when. Have it be sooner rather than later.

 


 

Here are three pieces of media that go into marijuana possession, criminal justice reform, etc.

 

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