Pubdate: Sun, 08 Nov 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Author: Laura A. Bischoff


At Least Four Groups Are Now Pursuing Future Ballot Initiatives.

COLUMBUS - The good ole-fashioned butt-kicking Ohio voters delivered 
to ResponsibleOhio Tuesday won't scare off pro-pot forces from trying 
again. No less than four marijuana groups are talking about or 
circulating petitions to get on the statewide ballot, some as early 
as next year.

Even ResponsibleOhio vows to return with another proposal to present to voters.

Jacob Wagner of LegalizeOhio2016, one of the four groups, said the 
defeat of Issue 3 cleared the decks for a cleaner, less controversial 
marijuana legalization plan.

"We are very confident that we are that alternative plan," he said.

In addition to LegalizeOhio2016 and ResponsibleOhio, a third entity 
received the green light in May to circulate petitions to legalize 
marijuana and hemp, and a group advocating medical pot is working to 
re-submit its petition language to the Ohio attorney general.

Lawmakers also are discussing pursuing a "measured" plan for phasing 
in a medical marijuana program - an acknowledgement that despite what 
happened Tuesday, some aspects of legalization are overwhelmingly 
popular. "It was a real eye-opener for me to hear from so many people 
who said, 'Yeah, I'm for medical marijuana,'" state Rep. Ryan Smith 
said last week.

But a limited legislative plan won't likely appease those who want 
full-throttled marijuana legalization, so another ballot measure is 
likely - that is, if new hurdles in the path of a citizen-based 
initiative can be overcome.

New hurdles

Getting on the statewide ballot in Ohio requires organization, time, 
money and boots on the ground to collect 306,000 valid voter 
signatures. It's complicated, costly and, because of Tuesday's vote, 
potentially more difficult.

Issue 2 was a poison pill designed to thwart Issue 3 if it passed, 
but it also contained language that could impact the types of 
measures that end up on the Ohio ballot into the future. Issue 2 gave 
the five-member Ohio Ballot Board chaired by the secretary of state 
new powers to determine which citizen-initiated constitutional 
amendments would Number of votes Issue 3 failed by. Number of votes 
Issue 2 passed with.

Number of groups planning possible ballot initiatives. grant a 
monopoly, oligopoly, cartel or special economic benefit to a group. 
And depending on how those powers are applied, that could be a high bar.

Philip Wallach, a Brookings Institution fellow, says the ballot board 
now has wide discretion to define what constitutes a monopoly or 
provides special economic benefits to a group.

"If they decide yes, then voters must simultaneously pass two ballot 
issues to make the change: one to certify that they would like to 
override Number of valid signatures needed to put an issue on the 
ballot. Amount of money raised by ResponsibleOhio for its losing 
pot-legalization plan. the anti-monopoly provision, and one for the 
substance of the amendment itself," Wallach wrote in an article 
posted on the think tank's website. "Presumably, the former would be 
difficult to overcome, meaning that the Ohio Ballot Board is now in a 
much stronger position to hinder passage of constitutional amendments 
it does not like."

The four states that legalized marijuana for recreational purposes 
did so through direct democracy - Colorado by way of a constitutional 
amendment, and Alaska, Oregon and Washington through 
citizen-initiated law changes. Ohio's rejection of Issue 3 marks the 
first loss for a recreational marijuana ballot issue nationwide since 2012.

Despite the big loss for ResponsibleOhio and the new hurdles 
presented by Issue 2, Wagner and other advocates for marijuana 
legalization say it can still be done in Ohio.

"We are going to run a completely different campaign than was run by 
ResponsibleOhio," Wagner said. "We're going to run a very 
intellectual campaign. We're not going to pander to the lowest common 

Doomed campaign

The proposal from LegalizeOhio2016 is dramatically different than the 
one voters rejected on Tuesday. It calls for a free market for 
growers, who would have to pass a background check and pay $5,000 to 
obtain a commercial license. Home grow would be limited to six plants 
per resident, with a ceiling of 12 plants per household. There would 
not be a ceiling on the number of grow sites, although each would 
have to be 1,000 feet from the primary building structure of any 
state-chartered elementary of secondary school, public library or 
licensed child day care facility or playground.

Proponents are aiming for the November 2016 ballot - a year when 
turnout for the presidential and senatorial elections is expected to 
be high. Turnout on Tuesday was about 40 percent. In a typical 
presidential election year, it is about 70 percent, meaning millions 
of additional Ohio voters. And presidential elections bring out not 
just more voters but younger ones too.

ResponsibleOhio made strategic errors that doomed its campaign, 
including deciding to go in an off-year election when voter turnout 
tends to be older and more conservative and structuring it to benefit 
the 10 investor groups backing the campaign. The oligopoly scheme 
scared off voters and divided the pro-pot community.

Jennifer Gussler, 44, of Centerville, said "It might be a good idea 
in the future, but this is not the right bill to pass. It does create 
a monopoly."

Another Centerville voter, Connie Aldridge, 40, agreed. "I voted it 
down. I don't believe in the monopoly. I'm for legalization, but not 
how they are going about this."

Issue 3, despite its marijuana mascot Buddie traveling to college 
campuses for weeks on end, did not inspire young voters to go to the 
polls. In Franklin County, the precincts surrounding Ohio State 
University's main campus saw a 19.2 percent turnout and in Montgomery 
County, the precinct covering the University of Dayton saw just 11.8 
percent turnout.

The Brookings Institution's John Hudak said in his blog that the 
failure of Issue 3 says more about ResponsibleOhio and the importance 
of timing, wording and structure of an initiative.

"In fact, I'm certain there are reform-minded individuals and 
organizations around the country that will be quietly pleased - or at 
least not shed tears - that Issue 3 failed, knowing that eventually 
another initiative, written in another way, on the ballot in another 
year, will likely pass," Hudak wrote.

Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization 
seeking legalization, said Issue 3's drubbing doesn't impact the 
national movement or even whether Ohio will soon see another legal 
pot proposal.

"I don't think it's going to affect anything moving forward. This was 
a very unique initiative in an off-year election," Fox said.

Although the Marijuana Policy Project is focused on 2016 initiatives 
in other states, Fox said his group will consider supporting a 
proposal in Ohio should one make it to the ballot. The MPP did not 
get behind Issue 3.

The Washington, D.C.based organization has hired a new analyst 
assigned to Ohio to work with state lawmakers on a comprehensive 
medical marijuana law, he said.

'Not going away'

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who opposed Issue 3 and whose job 
includes approving petition language, said he thinks medical 
marijuana will come to Ohio in some fashion in the future. Polls show 
80 percent to 90 percent of Ohio voters support legalizing marijuana 
for medical purposes. DeWine said he believes the public wants a 
limited, structured and science-based program.

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger also gave lift to a measured 
approach to legalizing medical marijuana, saying lawmakers will roll 
out a plan for a pilot program backed by clinical trials and scientific study.

"We want to take it seriously," he said. "We want to do the right 
things, but what we don't want to do is just wave a wand and make it happen."

That go-slow approach won't satisfy pro-pot organizers, and just 
minutes after learning they had lost ResponsibleOhio backers vowed to 
come back with another ballot proposal.

"We are not going away," said Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio.

DeWine can only shake his head.

"I never underestimate the greed of the people who put this on the 
ballot before and they may read the results as meaning all we have to 
do is get rid of some of the objectionable parts and this thing will 
pass," he said. "But it seems hard for me to believe that they'll 
come back, despite what they said that they'll try to come back next 
year in Ohio and spend another $25 million. I just find that hard to 
believe, frankly.... It's hard for me to believe they're going to 
plunk down that money again."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom