Ohio voters weigh legalizing recreational marijuana use

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Supporters Make Final Push To Legalize Marijuana In Ohio

Ohio voters will decide Tuesday on whether to become the first Midwestern state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, though a rival ballot measure could kill the law before it takes effect.

Issue 3 would add an amendment to the state constitution that legalizes both personal and medical use of marijuana for those over 21 years old.

The ballot initiative was the result of a campaign that gathered more than 300,000 valid voter signatures from around the state.

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If it passes, Ohio would become the fifth, and largest, state to legalize the recreational usage of marijuana, following Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia.

Ohio is considered a political bellwether - the candidate who wins Ohio usually wins the presidency. So a win for recreational marijuana in Ohio is expected to change the national conversation on legalization, according to Gary Daniels of the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union.

Seven other states are expected to vote on recreational marijuana legalization next year, according to Danielle Keane, political director for NORML, which advocates for legalization.

Supporters of Issue 3:

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Ohio voters weigh legalizing recreational marijuana use
Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, a pro-marijuana legalization group, speaks to the crowd at an election night event at the Le Meridien hotel, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Voters have rejected a ballot measure that would have made Ohio the first state to make marijuana legal for both recreational and medical use in a single stroke. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A voter in a tie-dye T-shirt votes at the Schiller Recreation Center polling station on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Eligible Ohioans headed to the polls Tuesday, to decide whether to make marijuana legal for both recreational and medical use. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A voter places his ballot in a bag to be counted at a polling station at The Ohio State University student union, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio voters headed to the polls today to decide whether to allow marijuana to be grown, processed and consumed within the state's borders. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Buddie, the mascot for the pro-marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio, stands in front of an opposition voter's chalk lettering that reads "monopoly" at the Ohio State University oval on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio voters headed to the polls today to decide whether to allow marijuana to be grown, processed and consumed within the state's borders. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Michael McGovern, a representative from ResponsibleOhio, a pro-marijuana legalization group, wears a sticker during a promotional tour stop at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. A ballot proposal before Ohio voters this fall would be the first in the Midwest to take marijuana use and sales from illegal to legal for both personal and medical use in a single vote. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
College students collect lawn signs at a promotional tour bus from ResponsibleOhio, a pro-marijuana legalization group, at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. A ballot proposal before Ohio voters this fall would be the first in the Midwest to take marijuana use and sales from illegal to legal for both personal and medical use in a single vote. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Buddie, the mascot for the pro-marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio, poses for photos with passing college students at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. A ballot proposal before Ohio voters this fall would be the first in the Midwest to take marijuana use and sales from illegal to legal for both personal and medical use in a single vote. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A volunteer for ResponsibleOhio, a pro-marijuana legalization group, holds a clipboard during a promotional tour stop at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. A ballot proposal before Ohio voters this fall would be the first in the Midwest to take marijuana use and sales from illegal to legal for both personal and medical use in a single vote. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Buddie, the mascot for the pro-marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio, holds a sign during a promotional tour stop at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. A ballot proposal before Ohio voters this fall would be the first in the Midwest to take marijuana use and sales from illegal to legal for both personal and medical use in a single vote. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
College students collect lawn signs and shirts at a promotional tour bus from ResponsibleOhio, a pro-marijuana legalization group, at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. A ballot proposal before Ohio voters this fall would be the first in the Midwest to take marijuana use and sales from illegal to legal for both personal and medical use in a single vote. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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But Issue 3 also grants exclusive rights for commercial marijuana growth and distribution to 10 facilities around the state. Those facilities are owned by investors in the legalization movement.

Critics of the measure say this creates a monopoly, and responded with a rival ballot measure called Issue 2. This ballot measure would nullify legalization if it creates "an economic monopoly or special privilege" for a private entity.

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"We support marijuana legalization, but we cannot support Issue 3," said Maurice Thompson, executive director of 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a conservative legal rights organization. The Ohio Green Party also opposes Issue 3 over the monopoly issue.

Ohio State University constitutional law professor Daniel Tokaji believes that marijuana legalization measure will fail to pass due to the word "monopoly" in the ballot language.

But Thompson's group and the ACLU also are concerned that the anti-monopoly measure could tie up other citizen-initiated amendments.

If both measures pass, the conflict will likely end up in court, said Daniels.

Recent polls in the state are split down the middle for legalizing recreational use - support is greater for medical use.

Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, a political action group which brought the issue to the ballot, said that the measure is not about monopolies but "providing access to adults and smothering a black market."

ResponsibleOhio volunteers have knocked on a million doors in the weeks leading up to the election in part to educate voters to vote "no" on Issue 2, James said.

"Ultimately it is going to be all about the turnout," said James.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Alan Crosby)



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