Cincinnati Enquirer Report:
COLUMBUS – Ohioans will not vote in 2019 whether to broadly legalize marijuana in the Buckeye State, despite several recent reports to the contrary.
Yes, there was a proposed constitutional amendment in the works last year, but that effort largely fizzled last fall.
Ohio Families for Change, the group backing the Marijuana Rights and Regulations amendment, deactivated its Facebook page and website long ago. It closed out its campaign finance account with the state on April 18.
“Ohio Families for Change, which is a former client of mine, has no plans on advancing their ballot language in either 2019 or 2020,” former campaign spokesman Jonathan Varner told The Enquirer.
Varner said he stopped working for the campaign in November 2018.
Varner said the proposed measure was well-drafted and proposed ample regulations and consumer protections and didn’t lock in profits for specific people. A failed 2015 Ohio marijuana legalization measure was funded by 10 investor groups that owned the only 10 sites where commercial marijuana could be grown.
Varner said it’s hard to raise money for a legalization measure without promise of a profit.
“No one’s going to pony up millions of dollars without some clear advantage for them,” Varner said.
Putting a measure on the statewide ballot is a big-dollar venture in Ohio. Most organizations rely on paid petition circulators to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures required. Campaign consultants estimate it costs at least $2 million to collect signatures and millions more to convince voters to support the measure.
No statewide ballot issues are expected to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Ohio Families for Change raised only $5,627 since March 2018, according to state campaign finance reports, and reported $67,722 in in-kind contributions from volunteers. Responsible Ohio, the group behind the only marijuana measure to qualify for the Ohio ballot, spent $21.8 million during its unsuccessful 2015 campaign.
Ohio lawmakers legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2016 and set up a strict regulatory program. Less than half of the state-licensed growers, product makers and dispensaries have opened.
National industry and investor news outlets have reported Ohio is among the next wave of states to legalize recreational marijuana following Illinois, the 11th state to allow adults to consume marijuana.
But with a July 3 deadline to make the 2019 ballot, that’s highly unlikely to happen this year. Any new marijuana legalization measure would need to go through several steps, spanning three weeks, before supporters could even begin collecting signatures.
Of the 11 states that have legalized broader cannabis use, seven did so through ballot measures in presidential election years.