Low voter turnout in an off-year election could usher in legalized marijuana in Ohio.
That was the word from State Rep. Andy Brenner, R-Powell, following a public forum Thursday highlighting State Issues 1, 2 and 3.
Issue 1 is an amendment to the state constitution that would create a bipartisan, public process for drawing legislative districts. Issue 2 is an anti-monopoly amendment. Issue 3 is an amendment that would grant a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.
Brenner, who spoke in support of Issue 2 and in opposition to Issue 3 at the forum, said he fears projected low voter turnout combined with a lack of information could be the key to the passage of Issue 3.
“The problem is we’re expecting 20 percent voter turnout and most people really don’t know a lot about the issue,” he said. “What they’re seeing is what they see on TV, and the only organization that’s spending money is pro Issue 3, anti Issue 2, because they’re the ones that want the monopoly, or the oligopoly, or cartel in this case. I believe it is a cartel. So, it’s a matter of just getting out the vote, and I don’t know that we’re going to do it.”
ResponsibleOhio representative John Humphrey spoke in support of Issue 3 and provided opposition opinion to Issue 2 at the forum. Humphrey, a Texas businessman who is one of the investors in the proposed Summit County production location, said that in his travels around Ohio, the overwhelming feedback on Issue 3 is positive and is growing.
“Our latest polling shows that we have far more than majority support,” he said. “We further show that Issue 2 has peaked in its support, and is actually falling well below the majority needed to actually reach passage. With the advent of the medicinal message that continues to get out, we find support continues to increase commensurate with that.”
According to the latest polling from the University of Akron, support for Issue 2 stands at 56 percent with 22 percent opposed and 22 percent undecided. The data for Issue 3 is basically split with 49 percent in favor of the amendment, 45 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided.
Brenner said he believes the polling on Issue 3 is basically split due to the funding of investors seeking what he called “massive returns” on their expenditure.
“We’re talking hundreds of millions and billions of dollars,” he said. “And most of that money, we don’t know if it’s going to stay here. The investor that was here this evening is from Texas. Who’s to say that money’s not going to go back to Texas? Or who’s to say he wouldn’t sell it to some other limited liability company or some other organization and the money just goes elsewhere?”
State Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, who was supposed to provide the opposition opinion to Issue 2, arrived late due to other commitments, but did make a statement about Issues 2 and 3.
“I am against Issue 2 because it limits the ability of Ohioans to decide what they want to appear on the ballot,” Tavares said in her statement about the issue. “Ohioans decided with their signatures that they wanted to place legalization of marijuana on the ballot. I have always been a supporter of allowing the citizens of Ohio to place what they want onto the ballot if they can get the required number of signatures. (Issue 2) jeopardizes the ability.”
Ohio League of Women Voters executive director Carrie Davis spoke in support of Issue 1, for which there is zero formal opposition. She noted that the issue has received bipartisan support in the state legislature. According to the University of Akron poll, 69 percent of Ohioans support Issue 1 with 15 percent opposed and 16 percent undecided.
The event was sponsored by the Delaware County League of Women Voters and was hosted by the south campus of the Delaware Area Career Center.
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.