Ohio Issue 3 was a 2015 ballot measure in the State of Ohio over the legalization of Cannabis. It failed, garnering just 36% of the vote in favor of legalization.

So far, much of the legalization of Cannabis has gone according|including myself] to somewhat predictable patterns. The first states to legalize marijuana have all been states with long-standing medical marijuana plans, a cultural tolerance of Cannabis use, and a strong popular initiative program. Most people who have followed the issue (including myself) have guessed that the next stages for legalization would be California, other Western states, and possibly parts of New England. Most people also guessed that legalization efforts would be focused on Presidential Election Years, when a younger and more liberal electorate tends to turn out.

So an off-off-election year, in a midwestern state, was not the expected place to stage a legalization initiative.

Along with that, the measure was written by a small group of advocates, most of whom had a vested interest in the measure: the measure specifically named 10 sites where Cannabis for sale would be grown, sites that were not accidentally owned by the framers of the measure. The measure, then, would enshrine a monopoly in the state constitution, something that people viewed unfavorably. (The legislature also ran a concurrent measure to prohibit such monopolies in the state constitution.) The backers of the measure also promoted it with a "mascot" named Buddy, an anthropomorphic marijuana bud. The entire campaign seemed tacky and ill-founded.

There are two takeaways from the failure of this measure, and which is the more important is something that will be more clear as more legalization efforts are contested across the states. The first is that demographics matter. Cannabis legalization, while no longer a fringe issue, is not ready for the mainstream everywhere, and at every time. Ohio, with a more traditional electorate, is not ready for legalization. Also, such measures are probably going to garner more success in high turnout years, rather than in odd election years. Secondly, the specifics of a bill matter. Just as candidate quality matters, even in states with a strong demographic preference for one party or another, so does the quality of a bill. Bills that are uneven, seen to favor specific groups, and which are badly advertised will fail, even if the electorate might be amiable to the underlying cause. Proponents (and opponents) of legalization would be advised to remember this as we enter the 2016 election season, which will probably see several landmark races about cannabis legalization.

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