Pot legalization issue cleared for Ohio ballot this fall


Associated Press

Eds: Updates with background, quote from executive director, group meeting Monday deadline to comply with election chief’s subpoena.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters will have the chance to decide this fall whether marijuana should be legalized for medicinal and recreational use, the state’s elections chief determined Wednesday.

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said ResponsibleOhio’s legalization proposal met the state’s signature requirements to qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot.

Organizers had initially fallen short of valid signatures, but they were able to gather the additional 44,185 qualifying names to meet the approximately 306,000 needed.

The Marijuana Legalization Amendment would allow adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana for medicinal or recreational use and to grow four plants for personal use. It sets up a network of 10 authorized growing locations around the state, some that have already attracted private investors, and lays out a regulatory and taxation scheme for cannabis.

Passage would make Ohio a rare state to go in a single vote from entirely outlawing marijuana to allowing it for all uses.

The next step for ResponsibleOhio’s proposal is for the state Ballot Board to approve language that voters will see on Election Day.

Late last month, Husted named a special investigator to review what he called “significant disparities” in the group’s petitions. He also subpoenaed the campaign’s executive director, Ian James, and various records from his consulting firm. ResponsibleOhio has said it met a Monday deadline to comply with Husted’s orders.

In a statement Wednesday, James thanks local elections officials for their “Herculean effort” in reviewing the signatures. He said legalization’s time has come in the state.

“Drug dealers don’t care about doing what’s best for our state and its citizens,” he said. “By reforming marijuana laws in November, we’ll provide compassionate care to sick Ohioans, bring money back to our local communities and establish a new industry with limitless economic development opportunities.”

Certification of the marijuana amendment sets up a ballot fight with another issue this fall.

A proposal sent to the ballot by Ohio lawmakers will ask voters to ban monopolies and cartels from being added to Ohio’s constitution. It takes aim at the 10 marijuana-growing sites described in the proposed amendment. Officials say the anti-monopoly measure is written to trump the marijuana amendment.

Husted has said that Ohio’s Constitution clearly states that the top vote-getter prevails when two conflicting ballot issues pass in the same election. But he also said the anti-monopoly measure is designed to go into effect immediately after passage and so would ban the growing-site system when it takes effect 30 days later.