Columbus -- Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said June 19 that an effort to block private-interest monopolies in the state constitution would trump a marijuana legalization effort if the two appear on the same ballot and both secure enough support from voters.
Husted said the constitutional amendment planned by state lawmakers would supersede ResponsibleOhio's issue, so long as the former passes and regardless of the vote count.
"In either circumstance, should the legislature's amendment be approved at the ballot box, it will establish dominance and prevent ResponsibleOhio's provision from taking a place in the state's constitution," Husted said in a released statement.
The secretary's comments came after the Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate vowed adoption of a resolution, placing the monopoly amendment before voters in November.
House Joint Resolution 4 would block groups from using the initiative petition process to pursue constitutional amendments granting monopolies or other types of special economic interests, according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
The language would not affect existing amendments, including the one approved by voters that allowed casinos to open in four Ohio cities. But it would quash a proposal by ResponsibleOhio to legalize marijuana use for medicinal and recreational purposes.
The group's amendment outlines a structure to regulate marijuana production and sales in the state, with 10 sites where marijuana could be grown, tax rates for retail and other sales and provisions for home-grown plants.
Backers say they have more than 550,000 signatures on petitions, well above the 300,000-plus required to qualify for the ballot. ResponsibleOhio plans to submit the petitions to the secretary of state by July 1.
Under normal circumstances, when conflicting amendments appear on the ballot at the same, the one that receives the most votes supersedes. But Husted said June 19 that lawmakers' monopoly-blocking amendment would win out.
" The Ohio Constitution also stipulates that a citizen-initiated petition will go into effect 30 days after passage, whereas the constitution makes no mention of any delay for initiatives placed before the voters by the General Assembly," he said. "Thus, should both proposed measures be approved, the anti-monopoly amendment put forth by the legislature would go into effect first and its provision banning a monopoly from inclusion in the constitution would serve as an effective roadblock to ResponsibleOhio's amendment taking effect."
Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, said in a released statement that the group will continue its push toward the ballot.
"We know politicians don't want Ohioans to legalize marijuana, and they'll do whatever they can to try to stand in the way of voters' decision in November," he said. "This anti-voter amendment makes clear that if lawmakers had their way, they would trump the will of the people. But voters know the legislators' initiative would limit their rights in our democracy. Right now, we aren't focused on hypotheticals. We continue to collect signatures from the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who want to see marijuana legalization on the ballot, Ohioans who overwhelmingly want a chance to decide in November."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.