Ohio court orders new wording for marijuana legalization referendum

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 17, 2015 1:56 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio state officials must quickly change the wording of a voter referendum on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use that is inaccurate and omits essential information, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

A ballot board, which has three Republicans and two Democrats, must rewrite four critical parts of the initiative before early absentee voting for uniformed and overseas military ballots are mailed on Saturday for the Nov. 3 general election.

"The cumulative effect of these defects in the ballot language is fatal because the ballot language fails to properly identify the substance of the amendment, a failure that misleads voters," the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a decision released on Wednesday.

The court left unchanged the title for the ballot question that would change the state constitution: "Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes."

The ballot initiative would legalize marijuana use for debilitating medical conditions, authorize licensed persons to grow marijuana at home and legalize possession and personal use of an ounce.

If approved by voters, Ohio would become the fifth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Voters in Oregon and Alaska last November approved use of marijuana for recreational purposes, following approvals in Colorado and Washington state.

The Ohio initiative would also authorize 10 growth facilities in the state and create a commission to regulate the industry.

ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James, whose group gathered the signatures to put the question to voters, said Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted had failed to provide voters with a fair representation of the amendment.

Husted, a Republican and opponent of the initiative, said he would convene the ballot board this week to make the court-requested changes.

(Editing by David Bailey and Matthew Lewis)