A controversial measure to legalize marijuana in Ohio will go before voters this fall.
Ohio’s elections chief on Wednesday confirmed the measure would make the Nov. 3 ballot, approving the signatures the pro-legalization group collected in a 10-day make-up period after many of the first 695,000 signatures were found to be invalid.
The initiative would change Ohio’s constitution to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana use and also give the exclusive right to grow and sell wholesale pot to 10 farms, all of which are owned by the ballot measure’s financial backers.
But the measure, which critics say amounts to a “marijuana oligopoly,” won’t be alone on the ballot. Opponents in the Ohio legislature sent a competing amendment to voters that would outlaw constitutional changes that benefit limited economic interest groups, like those behind the marijuana proposal.
“Hopefully the people of Ohio will decide to protect the clean constitution,” said state auditor Dave Yost, a critic of the marijuana measure. “The door remains open for cannabis legalization by petition by initiative. What we won’t have is this current system that’s poorly thought out and favors a few rich investors.”
Now that the marijuana measure is on the ballot, Responsible Ohio, the group backing it, is expected to start spending a large portion of its $20 million budget to convince Ohioans to vote “yes” in November.
“It's time for marijuana legalization in Ohio, and voters will have the opportunity to make it happen this November — we couldn't be more excited," said Responsible Ohio Executive Director Ian James in a statement. "By reforming marijuana laws in November, we'll provide compassionate care to sick Ohioans, bring money back to our local communities and establish a new industry with limitless economic development opportunities."
The group began running TV ads in Ohio during the Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6. Responsible Ohio is also promoting a new series of videos on its website.
“This amendment will give Ohio a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be the national leader in a multibillion-dollar industry and create new jobs,” one of the videos says.