Columbus, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters rejected a first-of-its-kind proposal Tuesday that would have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, following an expensive campaign, a legal fight over its ballot wording and an investigation into the proposal’s petition signatures.
At the same time, voters approved a legislative redistricting overhaul that had been a priority of both political parties. Issue 1 revises the system for drawing Ohio’s 33 state Senate and 99 state House districts. By giving the minority party a larger say, the proposal is intended to reduce gerrymandering of district boundaries for partisan purposes.
The constitutional amendment known as Issue 3 was targeted by a separate ballot issue – Tuesday’s Issue 2 – that took aim at its network of 10 exclusive growing sites controlled by the campaign’s deep-pocketed private investors. That issue banning monopolies from Ohio’s constitution was leading with 53 percent of the statewide vote with about half of precincts reporting.
The marijuana question, Issue 3, would have allowed adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use pot recreationally and made cannabis available for medical uses in the same vote, a unique approach nationally.
Some who voted “no” didn’t like that a small group of investors would have exclusive rights to grow pot commercially.
“I can’t believe I voted no when it was finally on the ballot,” said Marty Dvorchak, 62, of the northern Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield. “I think it’s ridiculous that marijuana is illegal.”
University of Cincinnati student Natalie McClorey, 22, said she also didn’t like the exclusive arrangement – but voted yes because it’s progress. She said she thought most students would vote the same – if they vote.
In a last-minute legal scuffle, a judge ordered polls in Cincinnati and surrounding Hamilton County to remain open for an extra 90 minutes – leading to a delay in reported results statewide.
A few precincts in southwest Ohio’s Hamilton County reported problems getting voters their ballots because of poll workers’ unfamiliarity with a new electronic check-in system being used for the first time. The marijuana legalization campaign, ResponsibleOhio, sought the extension citing those problems.
Cheryl Davis, 46, who voted in Cleveland, said she uses marijuana to help alleviate chronic pain in her back and voted in favor of legalization. Marijuana “helps me be comfortable in my daily living,” she said.
State lawmakers mounted the separate anti-monopoly initiative, Issue 2, in an effort to target the marijuana proposal’s network of exclusive growing sites and undercut legalization. It would prohibit monopolies, oligopolies and cartels that deliver economic gain to individuals from being inserted into Ohio’s constitution.
Timothy Shearer, 47, said he voted “yes” on legalization and “no” on the anti-monopoly measure. He said he didn’t believe opponents’ arguments that legalization would increase risks to drug addiction, saying he believes harder drugs cause more problems.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a user. I’m a military guy,” he said. “But I think you should have a right to choose.”
Beth Zielenski, 40, a West Chester mother of one, said she voted “no” because a lot of things need to be worked out on marijuana regulation, particularly with edible pot products, before it’s legalized.
Associated Press writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, Mark Gillispie in Cleveland and Ann Sanner in Columbus contributed to this report.