Pubdate: Mon, 02 Nov 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


The television commercials, direct-mail ads, endorsements and debates 
are over: It's time to decide whether marijuana will be legal in Ohio.

Eyes across the country will be on the Buckeye State on Tuesday to 
see what voters decide on State Issue 3, the for-profit 
constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in smokable and edible 
form for recreational use for those 18 or older, and for patients of 
any age with qualifying medical conditions.

The warring campaigns - ResponsibleOhio and Ohioans Against Marijuana 
Monopolies - are as different as you can imagine.

ResponsibleOhio is backed almost exclusively by 10 groups of wealthy 
investors who were expected to spend upward of $25 million on the 
legalization campaign.

By contrast, Issue 3 opponents have relatively little money but are 
backed by the largest, most-diverse coalition in recent Ohio campaign 
history, including business people, farmers, law-enforcement 
officials, clergy members, physicians and public officials of both 
political parties.

If Issue 3 is approved, Ohio would become the fifth state to legalize 
marijuana for recreational use, following Colorado, Washington, 
Oregon and Alaska, plus the District of Columbia. Another 19 states 
have some form of medical marijuana on the books.

Polls are of little help in predicting the outcome on Tuesday. A Kent 
State University poll showed 56 percent support for Issue 3, while 
polls by the University of Akron and Bowling Green State University 
called the issue too close to call. Both sides say internal polls 
show they are winning.

Curt Steiner, campaign director for Ohioans Against Marijuana 
Monopolies, predicted victory even though his group will be outspent 10-to-1.

"The energy and the intensity is on our side. . . . We have real 
support from more than 100 groups. All the major newspapers in the 
state are against Issue 3.

"We have felt confident because of the extreme nature of the way 
Issue 3 is written and because it's going in the constitution. We do 
expect voters to reject Issue 3 on Tuesday."

ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James predicted the vote will 
be close but said he is "98.3 percent certain" marijuana advocates 
will prevail against "sustaining failed prohibition."

He said the Yes on 3 team will succeed because it offers 
"compassionate care for the chronically ill and legalizing marijuana 
for adults so that we can create 30,000 jobs, more than 1,100 new 
businesses, and end this war on people."

Another indicator of how Tuesday's voting may go involves absentee ballots.

ResponsibleOhio concentrated heavily on an early push to get out the 
vote in absentee ballots and in-person voting, hoping to lock in 
votes of young people and enthusiastic marijuana-legalization 
supporters. Despite heated debate on the issue, however, that has not 
translated into a big absentee turnout.

Secretary of State Jon Husted reported that as of Oct. 23, 148,550 
absentee ballots had been cast, 93,916 by mail and 54,634 in person. 
A total of 328,385 ballots were requested. By comparison, 332,543 
absentee ballots were cast in 2013 and 680,656 in 2011. The big 
drawing card in 2011 was the ballot issue to repeal collective 
bargaining; there were no statewide issues on the 2013 ballot. 
Absentee voting runs through today, ending a four-week span that began Oct. 6.

A closer look at absentee votes cast thus far in Franklin County, 
done by elections analyst Mike Dawson of, 
does not bode well for ResponsibleOhio, which is counting on younger 
votes because older voters are far more likely to be opposed. 
ResponsibleOhio campaigned heavily on college campuses, bringing its 
muscle-bound mascot, Buddie, to court young voters.

But young people aren't turning out so far. Nearly 51 percent of 
about 30,000 Franklin County absentee votes cast are from voters 65 
or older, while less than 7 percent come from voters 18 to 30, Dawson 
said, based on information from the Franklin County Board of 
Elections. Information is not available on how people voted.

The numbers skew toward older voters, which is typical overall of 
absentee voting. However, it is even more pronounced this year 
compared with the past two elections, when those 65 or older 
accounted for 39 percent and 43 percent, respectively, according to 
Dawson's analysis.

State Issue 2 is an unknown factor. The issue is a constitutional 
amendment placed on the ballot by the General Assembly, largely to 
undercut Issue 3. It would prohibit a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel 
from getting on the statewide ballot without having to pass two 
public votes at the same election.

The first vote would be to get an exemption from the antimonopoly 
rule, while the second would be on the issue itself.

Backers of Issue 2 say if both issues pass, the one that gets more 
votes prevails. Opponents disagree, and say the matter is certain to 
end up in court.

The ballot language, full text and arguments pro and con on Issue 2 
and Issue 3 are online at 
LegnAndBallotIssues/Ballot Board.aspx#Issues.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom