Elections chief sums up ballot issues about monopolies


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio’s elections chief sums up the three statewide initiatives before voters this fall as being about one thing: monopolies.

While supporters of a proposal to legalize marijuana are challenging the use of the word “monopoly” and other ballot phrasing in court, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted defended the term and hinted at his political future at a Wednesday forum.

“What we try to use is simple, plain language that we believe the average voter will understand and that accurately describes the issues. And that’s exactly what we did,” Husted told the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

Passage of the proposed constitutional amendment, known as Issue 3 on the ballot, would make Ohio a rare state to go from entirely outlawing marijuana to allowing it for all uses in a single vote. The plan would allow adults 21 and older to buy marijuana for medicinal or recreational use and grow four plants for personal use. It creates a network of 10 authorized growing locations around the state, some that have already attracted private investors, and lays out a regulatory and taxation scheme for cannabis.

ResponsibleOhio, which supports the pot issue, argues the proposal doesn’t establish a monopoly, because there’s more than one producer in the commercial market. The group is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to invalidate the ballot wording and title, which contains the word “monopoly.”

Husted said he used “monopoly” in the title because the proposal grants an “exclusive” privilege, among other reasons.

“This is what it does,” he said. “It creates a monopoly for the purposes of production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.”

Voters in the Nov. 3 election will also decide the fate of a plan to overhaul how Ohio draws its state legislative districts and a proposal that seeks to ban monopolies and cartels from being added to Ohio’s constitution, in effect taking aim at the 10 sites described in the proposed marijuana legalization amendment.

Husted, who has long advocated for changing how Ohio draws its political maps, said he believes the redistricting overhaul known as Issue 1 will alter the political culture of the Statehouse and its surroundings. He described it as having the potential to end political monopolies, where districts are designed for one party to win.

While Husted spoke, a few demonstrators gathered outside to protest his move to invalidate ballot proposals in Fulton, Medina and Athens counties related to fracking.

After Husted’s event ended, several demonstrators inside shouted: “Let the people vote!”

The secretary of state’s office has said his action was “fully rooted in Ohio law.”

Husted also answered questions about:

– Whether he wanted to be governor: “Someday I would, yeah.”

– Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s performance as a 2016 Republican presidential contender: “I think he’s put himself in a position where he is one of the few people that can actually win a general election.”

– His thoughts on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump: “I’m not a fan. Not a fan. I think that his tactics don’t speak to the aspirations of what we want for America for everybody. … It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t make a good point here and there.”

– The renaming of Mount McKinley as Denali, which has been criticized by Ohio lawmakers: “I guess if that’s what the people from Alaska want. … I wouldn’t want people from Alaska telling me what things in Ohio should be. So I guess we shouldn’t tell people from Alaska what they should do in their own state. But I’m a big fan of Canton and McKinley.”

By Ann Sanner

Associated Press

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