In order for ResponsibleOhio's marijuana legalization initiative to make the ballot (the 2015 ballot, just to be clear), the campaign needs to submit at least 305,591 valid signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State, and meet a threshold of signatures in a certain amount of counties. This last week ResponsibleOhio submitted almost 700,000 signatures. Barring a significantly low validation rate, I think it's a pretty safe bet that the initiative will clear the signature requirement hurdle. Per Cleveland.Com:
ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James was confident the group will meet that mark in 72 counties.
"This [amendment] is about allowing the voters to do what the Statehouse hasn't been able to do for 18 years," James said at a press conference before boxes of petitions were unloaded from a U-Haul truck and into the secretary of state's office.
"No matter what the Statehouse does, we're going to make sure that we give the voters the right to decide this issue," James said. "If the voters decide they want to vote no, then we'll accept that but we want to make sure that they have the right to be heard."
The secretary of state's office sends the petitions to county boards of election to verify the signatures. If the group falls short, it will have 10 days to collect more signatures.
The ResponsibleOhio initiative is arguably the most controversial marijuana initiative to date. Proposition 19 in California in 2010 was pretty contentious, and the I-502 initiative in Washington in 2012 is still dividing a lot of the marijuana community in that state. I think definitely leading up to signature verification the ResponsibleOhio campaign has caused the most outcry from the marijuana community. I'd expect things to ramp up even more after the signatures are verified.
There is a virtually endless supply of people pointing out that the ResponsibleOhio initiative is not perfect. That's completely understandable. I definitely think that more than ten entities should be allowed to grow marijuana for profit. I personally don't like any license limits at all. But I think it's worth pointing out that marijuana prohibition allows zero licenses. I don't think that ResponsibleOhio's initiative is as good as a state like Oregon's, but I think that people shouldn't condemn the initiative as quickly as they are. If people vote no, that's fine, but I just hope it's for the right reasons.
Lets say hypothetically that ResponsibleOhio fails. Then what? Is there another campaign waiting for that to happen that has the same amount of funding and polling as ResponsibleOhio for a less restrictive initiative? As far as I know, no national organization is planning on running an initiative in Ohio if/when ResponsibleOhio fails. Just about every organization has publicly criticized the initiative, but when I ask them what their plans are for Ohio, they either say that they have none, or that if the financial backers of ResponsibleOhio will pay for it, they will run an initiative. If the initiative in 2015 fails, I don't think that the ResponsibleOhio backers will be shelling out anymore money.
So I think the question that Ohio voters need to ask is 'will there be another chance to vote for marijuana legalization in Ohio anytime soon?' Also, 'will the next initiative have a legitimate chance of passing?' If the answers to those questions are both 'yes' than I'm more comfortable with people voting no in 2015. However, if the answer to either of those questions is no, then I think that voters need to ask themselves 'is the ResponsibleOhio initiative better than prohibition?' If the answer to that question is 'yes', then I think that voters need to seriously consider voting for the initiative.
I'm not an Ohio voter, and I live in Oregon where we have the best legalization law in the country, so take what I say for what you will. I'm fine with people voting either way on the initiative, so long as their vote is based upon solid research, and not on knee-jerk reactions to what some pundits are saying. I reached out to the ResponsibleOhio campaign a couple of weeks back to get their FAQ's and answers, which can be found at this link here. Do your own research and make your own decision, whether it's for or against. This is a big decision Ohio, make it count!