From Legal Marijuana To A New Governor, Tristate Voters Have Much To Decide

Sep 24, 2015

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

Legalizing marijuana in Ohio. A new governor in Kentucky. A fiercely debated park levy in Cincinnati. And literally hundreds of other candidate races and ballot issues.

All are to be decided Nov. 3, in an “off-year” election.

Much of the attention now is going to next year’s election, when Americans choose a new president, but the fact is there is much at stake in this “off-year” election in the Tristate.

In Ohio, voters will decide what is likely to be one of the most hotly contested constitutional amendments in decades – Issue 3, which would legalize marijuana, to be grown by designated landowners who own 10 parcels of land in 10 Ohio counties – including Hamilton, Clermont and Butler.

The constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot by petition initiative conducted by a group called ResponsibleOhio, and funded largely by the potential landowners who will grow the marijuana.

It would permit the retail sale of marijuana at approximately 1,100 locations statewide. Voters in the precincts where a retail store would be located would have to approve it at a local option election.

People 21 years old and older could grow and use up to eight ounces of home-grown marijuana, with a state license.

There would be a 15 percent tax on the profits of all marijuana production facilities, with most of the money going to municipal, township and county governments.

ResponsibleOhio argues that it would de-criminalize a substance that has clogged the courts and jails for decades; and would create jobs – both through the sales and distribution of marijuana and from the tax money that would go to local governments.

A coalition called Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies has been formed to fight Issue 3.  It includes the Ohio State Medical Association, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association.

They argue, among other things, that allowing marijuana to be used in other products could put children at risk through an accidental ingestion of marijuana-laced cookies or candy. They object, too, to the creation of a “monopoly for  a small group of wealthy investors,” according to arguments submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State.

The Republican-dominated Ohio General Assembly placed another constitutional amendment on the ballot, Issue 2, which would prohibit any petitioner “from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel for their exclusive financial benefit to establish to a preferential tax status.”

Passage of Issue 2 would make the “marijuana monopoly” illegal.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has said that both constitutional amendments pass, Issue 2 would take precedence. But ResponsibleOhio disagrees; and the matter would likely go to court.

In Kentucky, all of the statewide offices are up for election, but the race to replace incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has turned out to be a real barn-burner.

Last year, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin made a name for himself in Kentucky politics by challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate primary. He had tea party support, but ended up losing.

In this year’ May primary, Bevin ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in a crowded field beating James Comer by only 83 votes.

The Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Jack Conway, had a much easier time of it in the primary.

But the general election is a real battle. The polling has been close, usually within the margin of error.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a publication of political analyst Larry J. Sabato the University of Virginia’s Institute for Politics, recently moved the Kentucky governor’s race from the category of “toss-up” to “leans Republican.”

In Cincinnati, the ballot issue that will likely generate the most heat is Issue 22, a charter amendment that would impose a one mill permanent property tax levy for city parks.

The tax levy was placed on the ballot by petition initiative, in an effect led by Mayor John Cranley.

Cranley has said he wants more city parks “bursting with activity,” and believes the levy would fund that. It would generate an additional $5 million a year for park maintenance and improvements. Some of those improvements could mean the development of private enterprises like restaurants and a beer garden in some city parks.

Opposition to the levy is forming. Attorney Tim Mara is one of the most prominent opponents. He says that opponents fear it would end up destroying the natural environment of some city parks like Burnet Woods and Mt. Airy Forest.

The voter registration deadline for the Nov. 3 election in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana is Monday, Oct. 5. Below you will find links to election board websites with more information on registration and voting.

Nearly every community in southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana has either candidate races, ballot issues or both to decide on Nov. 3. Most election board websites have lists of the candidates who are on the ballot this fall.

Ohio:

-         Voters statewide can find links to all 88 county boards of elections and other voter information at the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.

-         Hamilton County Board of Elections

-         Butler County Board of Elections

-         Warren County Board of Elections

-         Clermont County Board of Elections

Kentucky:

-         Voter information at the Kenton County Clerk’s website.

-         Voter information at the Campbell County Clerk’s website

-         Voter information at the Boone County Clerk’s website.

Indiana:

-         Information on contacting all County Elections Boards.