A political consultant came up with the idea to legalize marijuana in Ohio through a ballot measure, lined up investors to fund the campaign in exchange for ownership of the wholesale pot market and now plans to pay his own firm $5.6 million to push the 2015 initiative.
Active in the 26 states that have citizen-initiated ballot measures, professional operatives are now an essential part of the initiative and referendum system that was intended to represent grassroots endeavors.
At least $400 million was spent on 85 statewide ballot measures across the country in 2014, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state records.
Twenty-one firms nationwide were paid at least $20 million combined to gather signatures for the 2014 ballot, according to data from the Lucy Burns Institute and state records.
Ohio's marijuana initiative, which would write into the state’s constitution 10 specific land parcels and thus give the parcel owners exclusive control of the wholesale legal pot market, is an example of a ballot measure industry that is fueled by money from special interests that stand to benefit financially from the outcome of the vote.