Backers of marijuana legalization issue challenge ballot wording, title in Ohio Supreme Court

Supporters of a plan to legalize marijuana in Ohio are challenging the proposal's ballot phrasing and title, arguing in a Thursday filing to the Ohio Supreme Court that certain words are inaccurate and intentionally misleading to voters.

Last week, the Ohio Ballot Board approved the ballot language for the Nov. 3 election. The board's chairman, Secretary of State Jon Husted, has said the phrasing is fair.

In its court filing, the ResponsibleOhio campaign objected to how the ballot wording describes the locations of marijuana establishments, number of retailers and the amount of marijuana people could possess, among other issues.

The ballot language "does not appropriately, adequately or fairly inform voters of what they are asked to vote upon," ResponsibleOhio's attorneys said. "In fact, in places it does just the opposite."

ResponsibleOhio, which brought the issue to the fall ballot, is asking the court to invalidate the ballot wording and title and then require officials to adopt other phrasing.

Passage of the proposal, known as Issue 3, would make Ohio a rare state to go from entirely outlawing marijuana to allowing it for all uses in a single vote.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow adults 21 and older to buy marijuana for medicinal or personal use and grow four plants. 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.

In its complaint, ResponsibleOhio alleges that the ballot wording seeks to deceive voters into believing that they could buy or transport more than a half-pound of marijuana, when the proposed amendment only provides for the transport or purchase of an ounce or less. They also take issue with how zoning rules for facilities and the number of retail establishments are described.

The group also is challenging the title of Issue 3, which states the proposal "grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes." ResponsibleOhio contends the proposal doesn't establish a monopoly, because there's more than one producer in the commercial market.

Husted argued otherwise.

"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," Husted said in a written statement.

Business groups, including the Ohio Chamber, Ohio Business Roundtable and NFIB-Ohio, lined up against the measure recently. So have associations of school boards, school business officials, hospitals and doctors. Many cite child- or employee-safety issues or say the issue's business setup is flawed.

Among supporters are some high-level law enforcement officials, including Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who argues too many public resources are going to prosecute nonviolent drug crimes.

ResponsibleOhio's complaint was filed by attorney Andy Douglas, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice and former executive director of Ohio's largest state employees' union.



Issue 3 ballot language: