Pubdate: Wed, 19 Aug 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


The fight over marijuana legalization in Ohio is heading to court 
even before voters have a chance to decide whether it should become law.

After a contentious 4-1/2 hour meeting, the state Ballot Board voted 
3-2 on Tuesday to approve ballot wording for Issue 3, the marijuana 
legalization amendment, as well as Issue 1 and Issue 2, legislative 
redistricting and anti-monopoly amendments proposed by state lawmakers.

Representatives of ResponsibleOhio, the group backing Issue 3, 
slammed the summary finalized by the Republican-controlled board as 
inaccurate, misleading and distorted. Both Democrats voted against it.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas, representing 
ResponsibleOhio, said in a statement that the board-approved language 
is "clearly biased and gives preference to the arguments of marijuana 
reform opponents. The language is inaccurate and strategically worded 
as to misguide voters."

"As is our right under the law, we'll file an action with the Ohio 
Supreme Court for ballot language that better reflects our proposal," 
Douglas said.

The court action could come this week.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, a board member, said during the meeting 
that there are "factual inaccuracies" and "inflammatory language" in 
the wording. "That's unfair to put inaccurate information before 
voters on the ballot. That is not why we're here today."

Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, a board member and 
legalization opponent, crafted final language based on a draft 
prepared by the staff of Secretary of State Jon Husted, also a Republican.

Faber insisted on including language saying state and local 
governments would be powerless to prevent marijuana retail shops from 
opening in neighborhoods.

"If somebody buys in New Albany, I presume they'd be a little 
concerned if Joe's Marijuana and Pot Shop opens next door," Faber said.

Attorney Don McTigue, representing ResponsibleOhio, criticized the 
retail-store wording as a "total distortion."

He said the board's ballot summary also falsely implies that Ohioans 
could buy up to 9 ounces of pot, when the actual amendment says they 
could buy 1 ounce and grow up to 8 ounces.

"This attempts to scare people into thinking you're going to be able 
to go out and buy a half-pound of marijuana," McTigue said.

While the official wording does not include the words monopoly or 
cartel, it says Issue 3 would "endow exclusive rights for commercial 
marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction to self-designated 
landowners who own 10 pre-determined parcels of land" in 10 Ohio 
counties, including Franklin, Delaware and Licking.

ResponsibleOhio challenged several more provisions of the ballot 
summary, including use of recreational to distinguish from medical 
use of marijuana. The pot supporters preferred personal and said that 
is the language used in the full amendment.

Attorney Elizabeth Smith, representing Ohioans Against Marijuana 
Monopolies, a newly formed coalition, criticized the phrase personal 
use of marijuana. "It's either medical or recreational," she said.

Coalition spokesman Curt Steiner called the approved wording "fair 
and accurate."

The amendment says the sale of marijuana and pot-infused edible 
products would be taxed, with revenue going mainly to local governments.

Issue 2 and Issue 3 are on a collision course at the ballot box. 
Issue 2, hurriedly put together in June by the General Assembly, 
would make it more difficult for a "monopoly, cartel or oligopoly" to 
push an amendment into the Ohio Constitution. It is aimed at killing 
Issue 3, which would be a for-profit system with private investors in 
charge of the 10 growing sites.

Republicans say Issue 2 would cancel out Issue 3 if they both pass, 
but that fight likely also would end up in the courts.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom