Effort to legalize cannabis in Ohio up in smoke as DeWine rejects ballot issue

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — An effort to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would make marijuana legal for adult use and clear the way for a hemp industry in Ohio suffered a setback today when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected the group’s summary language for the ballot.

DeWine rejected a petition for the proposed End Ohio Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012, citing four defects. In DeWine’s view, the language did not present a “fair and truthful” summary of the proposed amendment to Ohio’s Constitution.

The summary is intended to provide a short, concise version of a proposed constitutional amendment for use when supporters of the amendment gather signatures needed to get the amendment on the ballot.

Proponents of the amendment, the political action committee Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis, can submit corrected language to the attorney general. But before they do so, they will have to gather new signatures of registered voters.

To put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, proponents must first get 1,000 registered voters to sign petitions with the summary language of the amendment. The attorney general then reviews the summary language.

In this case, DeWine rejected the summary, citing four flaws.

DeWine said that in three instances the summary did not make any reference to specific provisions in the proposed amendment. Among those was language that would repudiate federal cannabis prohibitions.

The fourth flaw dealt with a reference to educational courses that could, among other things, present information about the potential harms of marijuana. But nowhere in the actual amendment is there any language referencing potential medical harms.

“For these reasons, I’m an unable to certify the summary as a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment,” DeWine said.

The review by the attorney general is the first step toward getting a constitutional amendment before Ohio voters. If the attorney general certifies the summary as a fair and truthful representation of the amendment, Ohio’s ballot board then reviews the proposal to determine if the proposal covers just one issue.

If the proposal clears the ballot board, then supporters can begin collecting the thousands and thousands of signatures — more than 385,000 — required to get the issue to the ballot.

Currently there are three proposed constitutional amendments dealing with cannabis and marijuana that have cleared the ballot board. The most recent one, approved by the ballot board in May, would make marijuana use legal as part of medical treatment.


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