Ohio Chamber opposes marijuana legalization issue, backs anti-monopoly and redistricting issues


COLUMBUS, Ohio — A large statewide organization representing businesses has committed its clout and its money to defeating Issue 3, which would legalize marijuana use and sales in the Buckeye State.

Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrew Doehrel said “numerous and serious workplace concerns” caused its board of directors to vote against endorsing Issue 3. The group will endorse Issue 2, a legislature-sponsored amendment blocking monopolies and oligopolies from being added to the Ohio Constitution and aimed directly at ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana amendment.

“Our members, which represent small and large businesses throughout the state, have to ensure a safe work environment for all of their employees,” Doehrel said in a news release Wednesday. “Also, if approved, this issue would cause great uncertainty for those businesses who drug test their employees. When you have uncertainty in business, you can’t function. Other concerns … by board members included employer liability, the effects of employee productivity and other potential substance abuse issues.”

The chamber plans to spend $100,000 to oppose Issue 3 and $50,000 to support Issue 2.

ResponsibleOhio plans to spend $20 million or more to persuade Ohio voters to legalize recreational and medical marijuana sales and use. The campaign thus far has been entirely funded by investors who will own and operate the 10 marijuana farms where commercial cannabis could be grown under ResponsibleOhio’s plan.

The coalition against Issue 3, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, has no such investors. The chamber’s contribution will help the coalition bring its message to a wider audience of voters than can be reached solely through its network of medical associations, business groups and other supporters.

The state’s largest metropolitan chamber of commerce, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, opposed Issue 3 earlier this month.

ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said the chamber’s opposition is an endorsement of the status quo, protecting drug dealers who don’t create legitimate jobs, pay taxes or ensure customers are over age 21.

“We’re disappointed that the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the organization charged with advocating for economic development in our great state, has chosen the path of fear mongering over the incredible opportunity we have to create a multi-billion dollar industry that could bring more than 10,000 jobs to Ohio,” James said in a statement.

“Issue 3 prioritizes employer rights and workplace safety. As has been proven by courts all over the United States many times over, employers will maintain their rights to establish drug-free policies,” James said.

The chamber also endorsed Issue 1, which would change how Ohio draws its Statehouse legislative district boundaries. The chamber plans to spend $10,000 to support that initiative, which supporters say will make the process less partisan and more fair for voters.

“State Issue 1 creates legislative districts that would not favor one political party over another and brings an element of healthy competition to state legislative campaigns,” Doehrel said.

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