Ohio Voters Reject Legalizing Marijuana Controlled by Investors

Updated on
  • Measure would have allowed medicinal and recreational use
  • Ten groups would have controlled growing sites, distribution

Marijuana plants grow at the MedMar Healing Center, a medical-marijuana dispensary, in San Jose, California, on Feb. 7, 2013.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Ohio voters rejected a ballot measure to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana, which opponents said was wrong for the state and would have given investor groups a lock on profits.

The proposed constitutional amendment was losing 65 percent to 35 percent with 82 percent of the vote counted, according to the Associated Press.

Ohio would have become the first state in the U.S. Midwest to legalize marijuana and the only one nationwide to approve both medical and personal use at the same time. It also would have been unique in restricting the number of growing sites in its constitution, according to the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington. The measure identified 10 locations controlled by investors to supply medical dispensaries, retail outlets and manufacturers of pot products.

“Ohio voters rejected a greedy marijuana business plan to make gobs of money for a chosen few at the expense of many,” said Curt Steiner, campaign director for Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, an opposition group that included elected officials and business groups.

Supporters had promised to regulate an underground business that saps time and money from law enforcement agencies. They said it would create a multibillion-dollar industry generating thousands of jobs and $554 million in annual taxes by 2020.

Efforts Continue

Efforts to legalize marijuana in Ohio will continue “starting tomorrow,” said Ian James of ResponsibleOhio, the committee that promoted the issue.

“The status quo doesn’t work, it’s unacceptable and we’re not going away,” James said in a statement. “All the things we’ve fought for are true.”

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican, said he expects lawmakers to take steps in the next few weeks toward legalizing medical marijuana, which polls show has strong backing.

Ten investment groups put up $4 million each initially, half for land acquisition and site development and half for the campaign to get the legalization issue on the ballot and pass it, James said.

Among the 23 investors identified by ResponsibleOhio were Oscar Robertson, known as “The Big O.” He played for the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks and was the longest-serving president of the National Basketball Association Players Association. Another was Nick Lachey, a Cincinnati native and member of the former boy-band 98 Degrees.

Torn Apart

Since 2012, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use and 23 states have approved medical pot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“At a time when too many families are being torn apart by drug abuse, Ohioans said no to easy access to drugs and instead chose a path that helps strengthen our families and communities,” Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, said in a statement.

Ohio voters also approved a competing amendment aimed at blocking the marijuana measure and others like it in the future by preventing the constitution from being used “to grant a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel.” The measure was winning 52 percent to 48 percent, according to the Associated Press.