Pubdate: Thu, 13 Aug 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


The stage is set for a high-stakes game of power politics as Ohioans 
decide whether they want to legalize the personal and medicinal use 
of marijuana.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted certified on Wednesday that 
ResponsibleOhio has enough valid signatures of registered voters to 
qualify its marijuana-legalization issue for the Nov. 3 ballot.

Voters also will see an anti-monopoly constitutional amendment on the 
ballot, hurriedly cobbled together by state lawmakers in June. That 
amendment aims to derail the marijuana issue by preventing economic 
monopolies from being carved into the Ohio Constitution.

What remains unclear is what happens if voters approve both issues. 
Husted offered his opinion that the anti-monopoly issue would prevail 
because a legislative-initiated amendment takes effect earlier than a 
citizen-initiated issue.

The matter is almost certain to wind up in court. The marijuana fight 
pits a group of well-heeled investors against the majority of the 
state's elected officials, including Gov. John Kasich, who opposes 

ResponsibleOhio turned in 44,185 more valid signatures after its 
original 276,082 names fell short of the number needed to make the 
ballot. The combination of the two submissions brought the total to 
320,267 signatures, more than the minimum 305,591 needed to qualify 
as a proposed constitutional amendment.

While ResponsibleOhio has been at work for more than six months, the 
legalization opponents are just organizing now. The opposition will 
launch its campaign in front of Nationwide Children's Hospital on 
Monday because marijuana is "a special threat to children," who can 
eat "edibles" like cookies and brownies infused with marijuana, said 
Rep. Mike Curtin, D-Marble Cliff.

Curtin debated Ian James, ResponsibleOhio's executive director, 
before a packed assembly of the Central Committee of the Franklin 
County Democratic Party on Wednesday night. James said it is " our 
people," meaning Democrats including minorities, who are 
disproportionately targeted by police for marijuana violations.

"Why is that?" James asked. "We all know why it is. It's no secret."

Curtin said that if ResponsibleOhio hadn't tried to use the state 
constitution to change the law, and instead put it into the Revised 
Code, he would be on the sidelines and not fighting the issue.

"The Ohio Constitution is for fundamental things," Curtin said. "Not 
6,500-word self-interested amendments brought to us by deep-pocketed 
interests" trying to create a monopoly on producing pot.

"This issue is about trying to create a $1 billion industry for 10 
individuals and their friends," he said.

ResponsibleOhio should have instead launched an "initiated statute," 
where voters would be creating a new Revised Code rule rather than 
altering the state constitution, Curtin said.

"It's convenient for Rep. Curtin to say that, when in fact he's been 
a part of the problem here, not moving forward to legalize," James 
said. His group chose a constitutional amendment "to take this out of 
the statehouse politicians' hands. We trust the voters."

The Ohio Ballot Board, led by Husted and controlled 3-2 by 
Republicans, will meet Aug. 18 in a crucial session to determine the 
specific wording of the pot amendment on the ballot, and to set 
numbers for the ballot issues.

Voters will see two other statewide issues in November - legislative 
redistricting and the anti-monopoly amendment.

ResponsibleOhio's amendment will ask voters to approve the legal sale 
of marijuana for recreational and medicinal consumption to those 21 
or older. The vast majority of pot would be grown at 10 privately 
owned sites across the state, including three in central Ohio. 
Regular residents would be able to grow four flowering marijuana 
plants, and to buy investment shares in the big farm operations, if 
the issue passes.

Commercial and medical-marijuana sales would be taxed at all levels, 
with money being funneled primarily to local governments.

At least two of 10 investment groups involved in the ResponsibleOhio 
marijuana legalization ballot campaign have sold shares of their 
investments. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records show 
investors purchased nearly $2.9million of $4.3 million in shares 
offered for sale.

Dispatch Reporter Bill Bush contributed to this story.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom