Home Social Justice Ohio is one step away from putting marijuana legalization on the ballot

Ohio is one step away from putting marijuana legalization on the ballot

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This fall, Ohio voters could join citizens in Washington and Colorado by making marijuana use legal for medical and recreational purposes.

On March 20, the Ballot Board decided that the legalization issue would be eligible for this year’s ballot. The board, chaired by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, gave the proposal the green light after deciding that the language of the proposal contained no more than one issue. Now the proposal has just one hurdle to clear before being put on the ballot.

Supporters will need to gather enough signatures to put marijuana legalization before voters in November, and that’s not an easy task.

The issue will need 305,591 signatures from registered voters, to be exact (the number is 10 percent of the votes for last year’s gubernatorial election). These signatures must come from 44 of the state’s 88 counties, and for a county to be among the 44, the total signatures must make up at least 5 percent of that county’s votes in last year’s election. All of these signatures must be submitted by July.

The Ohio Rights Group got this far last year, but it was only able to gather 100,000 signatures, far short of the 385,000 needed. Even with the bar lowered in 2015, it will still be difficult.

But ResponsibleOhio, the group behind the measure, believes that they will succeed where the Ohio Rights Group failed. ResponsibleOhio has the financial backing that the Rights Group did not, thanks to funding from several wealthy donors. So far, they’ve raised more than $36 million.

It also has spokespeople like Lydia Bolander, who are dedicated to getting the word out.

“We’re working with several media outlets around the state, from major newspapers to college news sites,” Bolander said. “We are very active on social media, and we’ll be getting out into the streets and talking to people, explaining how this will benefit them.”

Last year’s failure threw Ohioans’ attitudes about legalization into question, but a poll from last year showed that 87 percent of Ohioans support the legalization of medical marijuana, even though 55 percent have claimed to never have tried the drug. Bolander believes that legalization is in the best interests of all citizens.

“I think that most Ohioans would agree that prohibition has failed,” Bolander said. “We know the laws aren’t working and the consequences have been far ranging…the cost of these bad policies is astronomical.”

ResponisbleOhio’s plan, which is outlined on its website, is to eliminate the drug’s black market by having the state regulate growth and to tax the sale of the plant. The tax would be 15 percent for wholesale, 5 percent for retail, and would go towards paying for public services like road maintenance and police.

But Bolander and ResponsibleOhio know that they have a difficult task ahead of them in gathering the needed signatures in time.

“We need to cast a very broad net as to where we’re going to collect signatures,” Bolander said. “You have to get a very broad coalition of supporters — a diverse range of signers and voters.”

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