Nov. 5, 2015: This story has been updated and corrected.
Voters in Ohio rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana Tuesday despite millions of dollars spent by investors hoping to profit from the measure’s passage.
Ohio’s Issue 3 would have made the state the first in the Midwest to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
But with most of the state’s precincts reporting, 65 percent of voters rejected the measure, even though the pro-pot advocates paid an estimated $6.2 million to air TV ads supporting it, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG, a media tracking firm. The television spots said the measure would help sick children and hurt drug dealers, among other benefits.
The measure was controversial in Ohio due to what opponents called its “monopoly” provisions. The proposed constitutional amendment called for allowing only 10 farms to sell wholesale marijuana — farms owned by the investors bankrolling the campaign.
“Issue 3 was about greed, not good public policy,” said Curt Steiner, who directed the campaign opposing the measure. “Never underestimate the wisdom of Ohio voters. They saw through the smokescreen of slick ads, fancy but deceptive mailings [and] phony claims about tax revenues.”
Opponents cobbled together a broad coalition of groups representing doctors, churches, sheriffs, accountants and other professionals. In their messages, they decried the measure’s “monopoly” and the possibility of children getting their hands on legal pot.
Pro-pot advocates aired more than 10 times the number of TV ads opponents aired.
“The electorate in this off-year election was an electorate that was into the debate and reliant on more than just the TV ads,” said Democratic state Rep. Mike Curtin, who opposed legalization. “If they were just turning on the TV ads, then we were in trouble, because we’ve been outspent.”
The controversial marijuana legalization measure divided even pro-marijuana activists, with some groups offering tepid support and others keeping a safe distance. Ohio resident Aaron Weaver, who would like to see marijuana legal in Ohio, campaigned against Issue 3 on social media and at debates and town halls across the state.
He said early Tuesday that he would be “immensely disappointed in the intellectual capacity of Ohio voters” if Issue 3 passed.