Ohio votes on legalizing pot for medical, recreational use

Buddie, the mascot for the pro-marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio, waits on a sidewalk to greet passing college students during a promotional tour in Oxford, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The only state with a ballot question this year on legalizing pot is Ohio, where voters will decide in a single stroke Tuesday whether to make marijuana legal for both recreational and medical use.

If it passes, Ohio would become the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana and would hand over exclusive rights in the state’s pot business to a limited circle of private investors that include some famous names.

The proposed constitutional amendment, known as Issue 3, would allow adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use pot while making it available for medical use. Ohioans would be able to buy marijuana, pot-infused candies and other related products from potentially 1,100-plus retail stores.

Home-growers would be limited to four flowering marijuana plants and 8 ounces of usable marijuana at a given time for personal use.

Pot sold commercially would have to come from 10 authorized growing sites that are already spoken for. Those facilities have attracted some famous investors, including basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, former boy band star Nick Lachey, fashion designer Nanette Lepore and Woody Taft, a descendant of President William Howard Taft.

The pro-legalization ResponsibleOhio campaign has spent at least $12 million on ads. It has faced opposition from a well-organized, diverse coalition of opponents that includes children’s hospitals, business organizations and farmers.

Critics say the proposal’s arrangement would amount to an economic monopoly designed for personal gain.

That has led to a second question on Tuesday’s ballot intended to nullify marijuana legalization: State legislators placed an initiative that seeks to ban monopolies from Ohio’s constitution.

If the marijuana question passes and monopolies are banned, a court will likely decide the issue.

Turnout was expected to be low as early presidential politicking largely overshadowed campaigns and exacerbated voter disinterest that generally accompanies an off-year election.

At an elementary school in the northern Cincinnati suburb of West Chester, Beth Zielenski, said she voted no on the marijuana question. The mother of one from West Chester cited concerns about how marijuana and edible pot products would be regulated.

Timothy Shearer, 47, said he voted for the initiative. “I don’t think it will cause more problems,” he said.

Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana.

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