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Ohio Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization Issue

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Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana suffered a big defeat at the ballot box. 

But as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, this doesn’t mean the issue is dead.

Ohioans soundly rejected Issue 3, which would have legalized pot for both medical and recreational use. The plan, which specified ten growing sites owned by investors, had been heavily criticized by opponents for being a monopoly.  Curt Steiner, the leader of the opposition effort, credited Ohio voters for his side’s victory.

“Never underestimate the wisdom of Ohio voters. They saw through the smokescreen of the slick ads, fancy but deceptive mailings, phony claims about tax revenues and of course, Buddy the marijuana mascot.”

Democratic State Representative Mike Curtin said he thought the plan was flawed from the beginning.

“I think it speaks to how bad the plan was and the wisdom of the Ohio electorate seeing through it. If tv ads rule the day, if voters get most of their information from tv ads, then issue 3 would have won and it would have won big. When you spend that much money, I mean $25 million in a campaign and $40 million overall from start to finish in terms of qualifying an issue for the ballot and you still get beat as badly as issue 3 got beat, that says something very profound about the voters and what this plan really was.”

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, another outspoken opponent of Issue 3, was jovial when asked about his thoughts on the way the Issue 3 campaign was conducted.

“I like the way they ran it because they lost.”

But ResponsibleOhio leaders who ran the Issue 3 campaign say they think the opposition group unfairly characterized the issue as a monopoly. John Humphrey, an investor in the Summit County growing site, blamed opponents for his side’s loss, saying the issue wasn’t presented fairly.

“It was politically motivated as far as the ballot title language and the ballot language itself. And voters were not given a fair shot as to what the actual initiative was trying to present for the state.”

Jimmy Gould, the man responsible for raising money for Issue 3, said he thought that characterization was unfair. But he says this isn’t the end of the fight to legalize pot in Ohio.

“We are going to go back. We are going to start over, from the beginning. We are going to climb that mountain and change the status quo. We will do everything we have to do, put up whatever money we need to put up and we are committed to making this change.”

The executive director of the ReponsibleOhio campaign, Ian James, isn’t backing down either.

“This was, folks, the first step toward legalization. We are not going away, we are not going away.”

James says the next step is to figure out what went wrong and fix it for a future ballot issue.

The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.