Marijuana legalization is heading to the Ohio Supreme Court after the Ballot Board voted 3-2 this afternoon to approve language for the Nov. 3 election. Attorney Don McTigue, representing ResponsibleOhio, the group advocating Issue 3, said the Ballot Board's decision will be appealed in a matter of days.
The fight over marijuana legalization in Ohio is heading to court even before voters have a chance to decide whether it should become law.
After a contentious 4½-hour meeting, the state Ballot Board voted 3-2 on Tuesday to approve ballot wording for
Issue 3, the marijuana legalization amendment, as well as Issue 1 and Issue 2, legislative redistricting and anti-monopoly amendments proposed by state lawmakers.
Representatives of ResponsibleOhio, the group backing Issue 3, slammed language finalized by the Republican-controlled board as inaccurate, misleading and distorted. Both Democrats voted against it.
>>> Read the approved language: State Issue 1| State Issue 2| State Issue 3
Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas, representing ResponsibleOhio, said in a statement that the board-approved language is “clearly biased and gives preference to the arguments of marijuana reform opponents. The language is inaccurate and strategically worded as to misguide voters.”
“As is our right under the law, we’ll file an action with the Ohio Supreme Court for ballot language that better reflects our proposal,” Douglas said.
The court action could come this week.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, a board member, said during the meeting there are “factual inaccuracies” and “inflammatory language” in the wording. “That’s unfair to put inaccurate information before voters on the ballot. That is not why we’re here today.”
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, a board member and legalization opponent, crafted final language based on a draft prepared by the staff of Secretary of State Jon Husted, also a Republican. Faber insisted on including language indicating state and local government would be powerless to prevent marijuana retail shops from opening in neighborhoods.
“If somebody buys in New Albany, I presume they’d be a little concerned if Joe’s Marijuana and Pot Shop opens next door,” Faber said.
While the official wording does not include the words monopoly or cartel, it says Issue 3 would “ Endow exclusive rights for commercial marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction to self-designated landowners who own 10 pre-determined parcels of land” in 10 Ohio counties, including Franklin, Delaware and Licking.
ResponsibleOhio challenged several provisions, including use of recreational in reference to personal use of marijuana even though the word appears nowhere in the amendment itself.
Attorney Don McTigue, representing ResponsibleOhio, also criticized wording about restrictions where marijuana retail stories can be located as a “total distortion” and said the board language falsely implies that Ohioans could buy up to 9 ounces of pot when the proposal says they could buy 1 ounce and grow up to 8 ounces.
“This attempts to scare people into thinking you’re going to be able to go out and buy a half-pound of marijuana,” McTigue said.
Attorney Elizabeth Smith, representing Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, the newly formed coalition, eschewed the use of personal use of marijuana. “It’s either medical or recreational,” she said. “It gives a fair depiction to Ohio citizens.”
The sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused edible products would be taxed, with revenue going mainly to local governments.
Issue 2 and Issue 3 are essentially on a collision course at the ballot box. Issue 2, hurriedly put together in June by the General Assembly, would make it more difficult for a “monopoly, cartel or oligopoly” to push an amendment into the Ohio Constitution. It is specially aimed at killing Issue 3, which would be a for-profit system, with private investors in charge of 10 growing sites across the state.
Republicans contend Issue 2 would cancel out Issue 3 should they both pass, but it likely would end up in the courts.