ResponsibleOhio to File Suit over “Biased” Wording of Pot Legalization Ballot Measure

ResponsibleOhio, the group behind Ohio’s recently-qualified ballot measure aimed at letting the state’s voters decide whether to legalize marijuana for personal use, has announced that it will challenge the Ohio Ballot Board’s chosen legal wording of the group’s proposed constitutional amendment. The group plans to take the matter to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The above-embedded video, published by OhioCapitalBlog, contains comments by ResponsibleOhio spokesperson Jennifer Redman and attorney Don McTigue on the group’s planned legal challenge against what it called “biased” wording meant to discourage voters from supporting the amendment.

The Ohio Ballot Board, which is chaired by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, features 5 members including 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats. According to The Plain Dealer, the wording of ResponsibleOhio’s proposed constitutional amendment passed the board by a party-line vote of 3-2.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), a board member who voted against the wording, told WLWT-TV that the board’s choice to characterize the type of marijuana use that would be legalized by the ballot measure as “recreational” rather than “personal” “crosses into editorializing about the amendment.

The board’s wording has also been criticized as giving the impression that it would allow Ohioans to possess and transfer over a half-pound of marijuana, despite the fact that the proposed amendment would only allow possession of up to 1 ounce. However, licensed home growers would be allowed to cultivate up to 8 ounces for personal use.

The Ohio Ballot Board also chose the order of the ballot measures on the upcoming November 3, 2015 general election ballot and opted to place the pro-pot issue question in the third position out of three, following an anti-monopoly-and-oligopoly amendment meant to counter and draw attention to a controversial aspect of the Ohio pro-pot ballot measure — that it only allows marijuana to be cultivated on 10 farms owned by ResponsibleOhio investors, potentially creating a marijuana production oligopoly.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice and ResponsibleOhio attorney Andy Douglas said in a statement, “When the Ballot Board prescribes language to ballot initiatives, it is meant to be a neutral, fair representation of the proposal at hand. The ballot language assigned to the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, Issue 3, is clearly biased and gives preference to the arguments of marijuana reform opponents. The language is inaccurate and strategically worded as to misguide voters.

ResponsibleOhio claims that opponents of the measure on the board chose the word “recreational,” which tests poorly in opinion polls, rather than the phrase “personal use” in the amendment in an effort to discourage voters from supporting it.

You buy alcohol you’re going to personally consume it, it’s not recreational, you buy toothpaste, you’re going to personally use it, you’re not using it for recreation, the same applies to marijuana,” said ResponsibleOhio executive director Ian James.

Sec. of State Husted, who claims that “recreational” was the correct word choice because it clarifies that the measure goes beyond just legalizing medical marijuana, said, “In the end, I think the voters in Ohio are going to clearly know what they’re voting for. They are either going to vote to legalize a marijuana monopoly in this state or they’re going to vote to reject it.

In the below-embedded video by OhioCapitalBlog, Husted reacts to ResponsibleOhio’s complaints about the issue question’s wording.

If both the anti-monopoly ballot measure and ResponsibleOhio’s ballot measure were to pass by a majority vote, thus contradicting each other, the amendment that obtains the highest total of votes would take priority over the other. However, the anti-monopoly measure is set to kick in 30 days prior to the pro-pot measure, which Sec. of State Husted said could prove to be a legal roadblock to the marijuana legalization amendment’s enactment.

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode exposing the federal government’s mixed messages about medical marijuana. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.