In a few weeks Ohioans will vote on Issue 3, a ballot initiative that would allow people 21 and over to use marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes and permit marijuana to be grown in designated locations in the state.
When Kish and I were in a waiting area yesterday, we saw two of the commercials about Issue 3 — one pro, one con — back to back. And the themes of the commercials were familiar to anyone who has ever voted on a ballot issue: jobs and kids. The pro-Issue 3 commercial emphasized that passing Issue 3 and allowing legalized marijuana sales would create jobs, and one of the bullet points for the anti-Issue 3 ad was that Issue 3 would allow the sale of marijuana-infused candy, which could end up in the hands of kids.
We’ve seen similar approaches in prior campaigns. The initiative to legalize casinos in Ohio, which passed, was all about jobs. The Ohio Lottery initiative, which passed, was all about devoting a share of lottery proceeds to education . . . and kids. It’s as if the campaign ad consultants sit around, thinking of every potential job-related or kid-related theme, no matter the issue being presented, because they just can’t resist sounding those tried and true messages.
Some complex issues are presented by the marijuana legalization initiative — issues like whether marijuana does have medical benefits under certain circumstances, whether legalization has caused an increase, or decrease, in crime or car accidents in states where marijuana has been legalized, and whether Issue 3 in fact creates a legalized monopoly, among others. The issues presented by Issue 3 go a lot deeper than whether a few thousand jobs will be created in a state with millions of residents, or whether marijuana-laced lollipops will find their way into the stream of commerce. But jobs and kids are what the TV commercials talk about.
Jobs on one side, kids on the other. Maybe that’s why the most recent polls on Issue 3 show that Ohioans are evenly divided on the issue.