Many of you will remember the now infamous Issue 3 in Ohio, the marijuana legalization initiative that went down to defeat in November by quite a wide margin. The group behind Issue 3 — ResponsibleOhio — will be back with a new plan early in 2016, a plan that is more free-market oriented and more responsive to the wants of advocates in the state. RO Executive Director Ian James has said that the big money investors that poured over $20 million into the failed issue will also be back, even without exclusive commercial growing rights.
Other groups still fighting to get on the ballot are Legalize Ohio 2016, which has a very good plan but has struggled with raising the money needed to get enough signatures to qualify. The group that has been battling since 2013 to get medical marijuana before Ohio voters is The Ohio Rights Group, but money trouble has handicapped them as well.
Over all these groups hovers Issue 2, which will allow the Ohio Board of Elections great leeway in what they approve for the ballot, and officials in Ohio have shown great hostility to the issue of legalization in the recent past.
The Ohio Legislature is also supposed to take a crack at medical marijuana this year. That could be good if a robust plan is passed and becomes law; on the other hand, a very restrictive plan could be passed and allow legislators to throw up their hands and say, “We did all we could do.”
The main difference for Ohio this year is that there will be many other states attempting legalization; last year Issue 3 garnered a lot of media attention as the only legalization attempt on a ballot. This year Ohioans could see just one of several measures going before voters nationwide. This means the spotlight will be smaller, but the vote will be no less important.