Where did a mysterious amendment come from, Rep. Ron Amstutz was asked after a House Finance Committee meeting in 2014. After some hemming and hawing, the panel’s chairman came up with an answer:
Out of thin air. He later said he was joking. But Ohioans who want to keep track of both their tax money and their public officials don’t find much humor in the Buckeye state’s laws and everyday practices on government accountability, ethics and transparency. In recent years Ohio’s legislature has weakened many of those laws – the same legislature that since 2012 has seen seven members convicted of crimes, including grand theft, bribery, perjury, money laundering and securities fraud.
If you live in Ohio and own a television, you’ve most likely seen one of the frequent ads promoting passage of Issue 3, the state ballot measure to legalize marijuana. If it passes, Ohio would become the fifth state to legalize recreational and medical marijuana use at the same time. It turns out, the frequency of the ads - and the amount of money being spent on them – make our state a bellweather for advertising expenditures on ballot issues. Ohio accounts for about half of the roughly $6.4 million that’s been spent so far on measures that will appear on 28 state ballots this November. That’s according to the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative news organization.
The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision to remove from this November’s ballot measures by Medina, Fulton and Athens counties that would have banned hydraulic fracturing and related infrastructure projects. (Medina, Fulton decisions.pdf) (Athens charter petition). However, in a separate ruling, the court allowed the city of Youngstown to proceed with an anti-fracking charter amendment and ordered it be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot. Fracking opponents have questioned the state's choice of outside counsel to help rule on the ballot issue.
Editor’s note: Ohioans in November will vote on whether to make marijuana legal for medical and recreational use. ResponsibleOhio has proposed what’s become a controversial ballot measure; it’s been reported that the group of investors in marijuana cultivation and sales will spend up to $20 million to campaign for its passage. Already, 23 states have legalized the sale of marijuana for medical use and four states allow pot for recreational use. After this year’s Ohio’s vote, the country could see an even greater movement to end the prohibition on marijuana through state, rather than federal, legislation. “I actually consider 2016 to be what I call the game-over year because there’s a good chance that a bunch of states will legalize marijuana,” said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs.
By now, many Ohioans are familiar with Responsible Ohio, the group behind a ballot measure to allow the growing and selling of medical and recreational marijuana – but would limit the ownership of pot farms to only 10 growers in the state. Few, however, know who’s behind Responsible Ohio and how the campaign is being financed or the investors who will benefit if the measure passes in November. Professional operatives are an essential part of the so-called “grass roots” initiatives to pass ballot measures not just in Ohio but throughout the country. Ian James, the Columbus-based consultant behind Responsible Ohio, came up with idea for the ballot measure, pulled together investors who will reap millions from pot farms and have bankrolled a $20 million campaign to get voters to approve their idea. James also will have a major stake in the marijuana business should it come to pass.