DARKE COUNTY — Marijuana legalization advocacy group ResponsibleOhio filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court Thursday seeking to have the language changed on its Issue 3 amendment.
The ballot initiative, due to be voted on by Ohioans in November, would legalize the use of marijuana by those 21 years of age and older. It would also authorize 10 marijuana-growing facilities and establish pot-dispensing shops around the state.
ResponsibleOhio is challenging the title of the proposal and its description on the ballot, which was drafted by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and the Ohio Ballot Board.
The group is asking the Supreme Court for an order declaring the ballot language invalid and requiring the Ballot Board to do one of the following things: Adopt new ballot language as prescribed by the Supreme Court that properly describes the proposed amendment; adopt as the ballot language the “summary” contained in Part A of the proposed amendment; or adopt as the ballot language the wording that ResponsibleOhio originally proposed to the Ballot Board.
In addition, ResponsibleOhio is asking the Supreme Court for an order declaring the ballot title invalid and requiring Secretary of State Jon Husted to devise and adopt a title that properly identifies the proposed amendment, or adopt a title prescribed by the Supreme Court.
Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice and Toledo City Councilman Andy Douglas, legal counsel for ResponsibleOhio, said, “The language and title assigned to Issue 3 is demonstrably false. After receiving public comment, the Ballot Board and Secretary Husted crafted the language and title with intent to mislead, deceive, and defraud the voters.”
The appeal cites numerous examples of alleged problems, including one implying that Ohioans could transport and purchase a half-pound of marijuana “as if it was a rolling dispensary or store selling marijuana, something ripe for a 30-second television commercial.” The amendment does allow individuals to purchase 1 ounce of pot and, separately, to grow and possess up to 8 ounces in a secure location at home.
Douglas attacked inclusion of the word “recreational” in reference for use by those 21 or older for non-medicinal purposes. He said the word appears nowhere in the full amendment and is prejudicial and misleading.
The former justice also took Husted to task for using “monopoly” in the Issue 3 title, a phrase opponents use in their criticism of the proposal.
“These may be the most disingenuous and untruthful assertions by public officials that I’ve ever seen in my long career,” Douglas said in an interview.
Husted, on the other hand, believes the initiative’s wording accurately depicts what the measure would accomplish if approved by voters.
“I have an obligation as the state’s chief elections officer to make sure Ohioans understand the decision before them when they enter the voting booth,” Husted said. “There is no better way to describe State Issue 3 than to say it is a monopoly that grants exclusive rights to a certain group of people — rights that would not be afforded to every other Ohioan.”
“Webster’s dictionary defines the word monopoly in a way that seamlessly matches what Issue 3 would do. News publications throughout Ohio have rightly come to the conclusion that Issue 3 would allow a small group of wealthy investors to buy a place in the Ohio Constitution and reserve themselves exclusive rights as the only suppliers of marijuana in Ohio.”
He added, “The backers of State Issue 3 could have easily prevented Ohioans from calling their plan a marijuana monopoly by choosing to not write their plan as a marijuana monopoly.”
A group opposing the initiative, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, stated that it agreed with the Issue 3 description.
“Today’s lawsuit is the latest attempt in ResponsibleOhio’s deceptive campaign to distance itself from its proposed monopoly and to hide from the fact that the more than 1,100 retail stores allowed by Issue 3 would be selling (only) recreational marijuana — a term that is widely accepted in the few states that do allow the sale of recreational and medical marijuana.”
The Ohio Supreme Court could take up to two weeks to review evidence and briefs from both parties. The ballot language must be finalized by October 6 as this marks the date when Ohio voters may begin voting in person and by mail.