Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jul 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


Ohio's smoldering marijuana legalization debate flared up on 
Wednesday as Secretary of State Jon Husted launched an investigation 
of ResponsibleOhio's petition and the group countered with a 
harassment allegation written by a former Ohio Supreme Court justice.

All this came on the eve of today's make-or-break deadline for 
ResponsibleOhio to submit additional valid signatures of registered 
voters to qualify for the Nov. 3 general-election ballot.

ResponsibleOhio fell nearly 30,000 signatures short of the number 
required to get on the fall ballot. The shortfall triggered a dispute 
between ResponsibleOhio and Husted's office. The group must turn in 
enough new valid signatures by today to fill the gap and qualify for 
the ballot.

Husted picked David Bowers, a Lima, Ohio, lawyer and former Allen 
County prosecutor, as special investigator to look into the 
signature-gathering and submission process for the pot-legalization 
constitutional amendment.

Bowers was tasked to look at "significant disparities" between 
signatures on the petition that ResponsibleOhio collected and 
submitted, Husted said in a statement. He warned that if the 
investigation finds fraud, it could result in felony charges.

ResponsibleOhio lawyered up with former Ohio Supreme Court Justice 
Andy Douglas and high-profile Columbus lawyer Larry James.

"Instead of working with us and addressing the problems within his 
office and at the County Boards of Election, Secretary Husted has 
slapped us with a subpoena meant to silence us and chill any future 
opposition," Douglas said in a statement. "He even deputized a former 
prosecutor to investigate us, then bragged about his past success 
gaining convictions, all in a further attempt to frighten, harass and 
silence us.

"We will not be silenced and ultimately it is Secretary Husted who 
will have to answer for his actions, and those of the County Boards 
of Election, in a court of law," said Douglas, a fiery jurist who 
served on the Ohio Supreme Court from 1985 to 2002.

James accused Husted of attempting to "punish" ResponsibleOhio for 
publicly pointing out discrepancies in the signature totals. "We were 
merely exercising our First Amendment right to raise legitimate 
challenges and concerns," James said.

Husted says that his staff counted every signature submitted but 
ResponsibleOhio made a big math mistake, turning in 35,083 fewer 
signatures than it stated, for a total of 660,190.

ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said previously that his 
organization kept a digital record of all 695,273 signatures 
submitted and elections officials in some counties erred by failing 
to review and count all names.

Husted will subpoena Ian James and ResponsibleOhio records along with 
those of the Strategy Network, a ballot-issue consulting firm, as 
part of the investigation.

Ian James said last week his organization will file a challenge with 
the Ohio Supreme Court over the disputed signature count.

On another marijuana issue, Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected the 
language on a medical-marijuana proposal on Wednesday.

DeWine said he found "at least four defects" in the proposal 
submitted by Ohio Medical Cannabis Care LLC, the group backing the 
issue. He said the defects included two issues with patient-registry 
cards, a timetable for certain required actions, and a problem with 
the legal penalty for those who administer medical marijuana to 
underage patients.

The proposed ballot issue and DeWine's letter are online at www.ohio BallotInitiatives
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom