Ohio marijuana ballot initiative lacks valid signatures, gets rejected

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday announced he has rejected a petition for a proposed marijuana-related constitutional amendment because petitioners did not submit the minimum number of valid signatures required. FILE
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday announced he has rejected a petition for a proposed marijuana-related constitutional amendment because petitioners did not submit the minimum number of valid signatures required. FILE

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday announced he has rejected a petition for a proposed marijuana-related constitutional amendment because petitioners did not submit the minimum number of valid signatures required.

The group of petitioners have been seeking to put a marijuana legalization issue on the November 2020 ballot.

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The amendment, “to regulate marijuana like alcohol,” seeks to allow anyone 21 or older to buy, possess and consume limited amounts of marijuana and to grow up to six plants.

In order for a constitutional amendment to proceed, an initial petition containing summary language of the amendment and at least 1,000 valid signatures from Ohio registered voters must be submitted to the Ohio Attorney General.

On March 17, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received a written petition to amend the Ohio Constitution, titled “Marijuana Rights and Regulations,” Yost said in a statement.

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He said the submission contained petitions with 1,248 submitted signatures. According to Yost, those petitions were then submitted to the respective boards of elections for signature verification.

“Of the 1,000 minimum signatures required to proceed with the constitutional amendment, those boards of elections reported receiving a total of only 271 valid signatures,” Yost said.

He rejected the petition because of that and said via letter to the petitioners, “Finally, because the petition failed to meet the signature threshold, I have not made any determination concerning the fairness and truthfulness of the proposed summary.”

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Earlier this month, Yost rejected wording on the petition stating that its summary language failed to include “findings and declarations” that are listed in the proposed constitutional amendment.

That triggered the need for backers of the amendment to resubmit it with revised petition language after gathering another 1,000 signatures. The deadline for getting a constitutional amendment on the November ballot is July 1.

Ohio voters last weighed in on legalizing marijuana in November 2015 when they rejected a constitutional amendment that would have designated 10 investor-owned growing areas.

State Issue 3, the ResponsibleOhio plan, was defeated in a landslide 65 percent to 35 percent on Nov. 3, 2015. It was opposed by business, health, civic and political leaders as well as pro-pot advocates.

Ohio lawmakers crafted a legal medical marijuana law in 2016 and the first dispensaries opened in January 2019.