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Pot Legalization Initiative To Appear On November Ballot

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For the first time ever, an initiative to legalize marijuana is set to go before Ohio voters.

ResponsibleOhio, the private investors’ group backing the ballot issue, can now launch its campaign to convince Ohioans who vote in the November election.

Secretary of State Jon Husted has certified the second round of signatures turned in by ResponsibleOhio after hundreds of thousands of signatures submitted in June were thrown out. The group needed more than 305,000 valid signatures and ended up with more than 320,000.

ResponsibleOhio’s amendment would legalize marijuana and set up 10 growing sites, along with limited personal growing and state regulations.

If voters approve the November ballot issue, Ohio would become the sixth state to legalize marijuana and the largest in terms of population.  

In July, a Quinnipiac University Poll said Ohioans supported the idea of legalization 52 percent to 44 percent. But backers of the ballot issue say they know that is not the same as supporting this specific proposal.

Executive Director Ian James says the next goal is to convince voters, especially those who are for legalization but against the specifics of ResponsibleOhio’s proposal.

“I think most people that support legalization will ultimately conclude that this is better than prohibition,” James said. “Prohibition is hurtful. It hurts families. It hurts communities. It essentially surrenders our streets to the drug dealers and we need to take them back.”

Opponents say ResponsibleOhio is creating a pot monopoly. Another issue on the ballot would block the plan if it gets more votes. If both measures pass, the issue would likely go to court.

The 10 growing sites set up in this ballot issue have been purchased or are under purchase option by 20 investors around the state. Some of the pot farms would be located in southwest Ohio.

Some of the investors are well-known names in the Cincinnati area – including entertainer Nick Lachey, basketball legend Oscar Robertson, and philanthropist and Democratic campaign fundraiser Barbara Gould.

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.