Pubdate: Sun, 01 Nov 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Author: Laura A. Bischoff


Tactics for Opponents, Supporters Differ Greatly in Campaign for 
Marijuana Legalization

Columbus - One side is spending money, the other side - for the most 
part - isn't.

One side has the backing of some 100 organizations, while the other 
side boasts the star power of people like former boy band singer Nick Lachey.

One side is banking on a strong turnout of young people while the 
other side hopes it can sway voters with warnings of the potential 
harm done to young people.

It's a big election that could determine whether Ohio becomes the 
first state to go to full legalization of marijuana without first 
legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But even after Tuesday, there might not be clarity over whether 
Ohioans support making pot legal. The Issue 3 battle has become not 
so much a fight over marijuana, but a fight over something normally 
not associated with marijuana: monopolies.

Backers of ResponsibleOhio's Issue 3 campaign have spent the past 
year collecting more than 700,000 petition signatures, raising more 
than $20 million from 10 select investor groups, deploying a 
controversial costumed superhero named 'Buddie," and trotting out 
supporters that have included Lachey, basketball great Oscar 
Robinson, TV talk show star Montel Williams and Hamilton County 
Prosecutor Joe Deters.

Meanwhile, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies - the chief group 
opposing Issue 3 - has been getting by on less than one-fortieth of 
what the Yes on 3 side has spent on TV ads, full-color mailings, 
hired guns and more.

Late last week, canvassers paid through the ResponsibleOhio campaign 
were knocking on doors in Columbus, hoping to squeeze out a few more 
yes votes. Meanwhile, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted held a press 
conference at a trucking company in Dayton, where he warned about 
economic peril if Issue 3 passes.

Absent a flush bank account, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies has 
been racking up endorsements from organizations such as the Ohio Farm 
Bureau and Ohio Hospital Association, and using press conferences and 
community forums to argue against Issue 3.

"You name a group, we got them. They are uniting against Issue 3 in a 
manner I've never seen before in an issue campaign. I think that's 
awfully hard to beat, no matter how much you spend," said state Rep. 
Mike Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, who is the former editor of the Columbus 
Dispatch and an outspoken critic of Issue 3. "I'm hopeful that their 
campaign will set a record for most dollars spent for fewest votes. 
If that happens, it's a great story."

But ResponsibleOhio's Ian James said the campaign against Issue 3 has 
distorted what legalization would mean for Ohio.

"Legalizing marijuana for medical and adult, personal use will make 
it safer, create a multi-billion dollar industry with 30,000 jobs, 
bring in hundreds of millions in tax revenue to our communities and 
still allow employers to enforce non-use policies on their job 
sites," he wrote in an email.

The No on 3 crowd has benefitted from a political establishment that 
opposes legalizing marijuana and has lobbied hard against what they 
say is a marijuana monopoly that would be written into the state constitution.

ResponsibleOhio has disputed the monopoly claim, but had to run ads 
attempting to assure voters that its plan allows for competition.

Husted even included the word "monopoly" in the title for the ballot 
issue and the Ohio Supreme Court backed him up on it. The Ohio Ballot 
Board wrote language sympathetic to the no side. And Curtin and his 
fellow lawmakers put a proposed constitutional amendment on the 
ballot - state Issue 2 - designed to thwart Issue 3, even if voters 
endorse Issue 3.

It's been a bruising campaign and, for many, a confusing one. But for 
those still unsure of what the two competing issues are all about, 
here is a voting cheat sheet:

Issue 3 is a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana 
for recreational and medical use by adults, let people grow a limited 
number of pot plants at home, and give the only commercial growing 
licenses to 10 parcels controlled by the campaign investors.

Issue 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment put forth by state 
lawmakers to block future monopolies from being installed in the Ohio 
constitution and make sure Issue 3 doesn't take effect.

If you want to legalize marijuana and don't mind 10 investors 
controlling all the cultivation, vote yes on 3.

If you don't want 10 investors controlling all the marijuana 
cultivation and/or you oppose legalizing marijuana, vote no on 3.

If you want it to be more difficult for certain citizen-initiatives - 
those involving monopolies or special tax rates - to make the ballot 
and make double sure marijuana isn't legalized, vote yes on 2.

If you don't like the idea of making citizen-driven ballot issues 
more difficult, vote no on 2.

Hard to predict

Both sides last week expressed confidence they will prevail, but it 
is very difficult to forecast the result of Tuesday's vote because of 
uncertainty over turnout and possible voter confusion.

Polling shows a majority of Ohioans favor allowing adults to possess 
small amounts of marijuana for personal use and 80 percent to 90 
percent support legalizing medical marijuana. But that kind of 
support may or may not translate into a majority voting yes on Issue 
3, which is opposed by health, labor, business and professional 
groups that have urged their members to vote against the plan.

A poll conducted by Zogby Analytics for Bowling Green State 
University in October found 44 percent of likely Ohio voters support 
Issue 3, 43 percent oppose it and nearly 13 percent were undecided. 
Issue 2 is headed for approval with 55.8 percent support, 30.4 
percent opposition and 13.7 percent undecided, the poll found.

Marijuana legalization hinges on who goes to the polls Tuesday. 
Odd-year election year turnout has averaged 38.5 percent over the 
past 20 years. Off-year voters tend to be white, older and more 
conservative - those who typically oppose legalization. Still, 
ResponsibleOhio is gambling that marijuana legalization will drive 
younger, atypical voters to the polls and they are trying to appeal 
to the solid majority of voters who support medical marijuana.

Early voting numbers reported last week by the Secretary of State did 
not show promise for a big turnout. By mid-week, 148,550 absentee 
ballots had been cast while another 179,835 had yet to be returned. 
That is far below the 680,656 early votes cast in 2011 when voters 
decided a referendum on Senate Bill 5, the controversial measure to 
gut collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.

If all the outstanding absentee ballots are returned, early voting 
this year will be on par with 2013 when 332,543 voters cast early 
ballots. That year there were no statewide issues on the ballot.

Staff Writer Ken McCall contributed to this story.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom