Ohio marijuana legalization supporters moving toward signature-gathering goals

A group seeking to put a marijuana legalization measure before voters in November is nearly halfway home in its signature collecting effort.

And a second effort, aimed at next year’s ballot, is targeting early May to ask the Ohio attorney general to review its ballot language, the first hurdle to clear toward getting an issue on the ballot.

A third effort, meanwhile, has complained that it likely will not reach the ballot as a result of interference from one of the other groups.

Legalizing marijuana

Several proposals are in the works to legalize marijuana in Ohio. Check here for an update on the status of those efforts.

ResponsibleOhio, the group working toward the 2015 ballot, has collected more than 180,000 signatures on petitions to put the issue before voters.

To get on the ballot, petitioners need to gather 305,591 signatures of registered voters. The total is equal to 10 percent of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial contest.

And the signature gathering will have to reach large portions of Ohio. Names must be gathered from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and in each of 44 counties, the total gathered must amount to 5 percent of the 2014 gubernatorial vote locally.

Signatures must be submitted by July.

ResponsibleOhio’s amendment would allow 10 growing sites promised to campaign investors. Entrepreneurs would be able to apply for licenses to manufacture marijuana products and sell weed at retail stores and nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries.

Recreational marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent at the wholesale and manufacturing levels and 5 percent at retail locations. Most tax revenue would go to local governments to pay for roads, police and other public services while 15 percent would go toward marijuana research, addiction services and enforcement.

Adults over age 21 could also possess up to four flowering marijuana plants and 8 ounces of dried marijuana for personal use — provided they obtain a license from the state.

The Ohio Ballot Board cleared the way for the group to begin collecting those signatures about four weeks ago. ResponsibleOhio began collecting signatures the following week.

The first two weeks of signature gathering were met with bad weather, said Lydia Bolander, a spokeswoman for the group. Despite that, circulators have found strong general interest in finding out more about the issue.

“We’ve certainly seen very positive momentum so far. We’re moving at a pretty good pace in terms of how we’re collecting these signatures,” Bolander said.

“We’ve been gathering signatures in some of the bigger metro areas and we’re starting to spread into some other parts of the state as well,” Bolander said. This week, for example, circulators were in Dayton and Freemont.

The goal is to collect about 700,000 signatures and file the petitions with the secretary of state in June. Petitioners collect extra signatures to ensure that they will hit the threshold for landing on the ballot even after invalid signatures are stricken.

The other group gathering signatures, Ohioans To End Prohibition, is targeting the November 2016 ballot and at an earlier stage in the process. It is gathering 1,000 valid signatures from registered voters so that it can get its ballot language reviewed by the Ohio attorney general.

So far the group has gathered more than 2,000 signatures. Its target is 4,000 to 5,000.

“We’re thinking sometime in the next two weeks we’ll be handing them in,” said Sri Kavuru, OTEP’s president.

If the attorney general certifies that the summary language for the issue is a true representation of the issue itself, it then would be considered by the Ohio Ballot Board. If it finds the proposed amendment is in proper form — one issue rather than multiple issues — it can give OTEP the green light to proceed.

OTEP’s proposal differs from ResponsibleOhio’s. While both would open the door for personal use, OTEP’s would allow for more widespread growing of marijuana.

It would target 40 percent of its tax revenue to local governments. The remainder would be split among drug education and addiction treatment, public pension plans, the Ohio School Facilities Commission and research, including research into development of hemp products.

The industry would be controlled by a new division in the Department of Commerce that would be similar to the current Division of Liquor Control.

The third effort, the Ohio Rights Group, which was targeting November 2015, has complained to the Ohio Elections Commission that individuals associated with ResponsibleOhio, by infiltrating the group, caused interference that likely will keep it from gathering enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The elections commission is slated to hear the group’s complaint May 21.

Bolander, the ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman, described the allegations as “bogus.”

You can learn more about all of the proposals here.

Source: Ohio marijuana legalization supporters moving toward signature-gathering goals | cleveland.com

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