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What Happens Next in Ohio After Defeat of Issue 3?

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Ohio voters on Tuesday resoundingly defeated a marijuana legalization measure that even many longtime reform advocates opposed.

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Ohioans rejected Issue 3, which would have granted the very funders who paid to put it on the ballot exclusive rights to commercially cultivate cannabis. Separately, voters approved Issue 2, a legislatively-referred measure to prevent wealthy individuals from using the Ohio Constitution to grant themselves monopolies in the future.

Adding these results to recent polls showing that a clear majority of the state’s voters support the general concept of legalizing marijuana, the implication is that Ohio is ready to end prohibition, but not with a scheme that seems like a money grab for a small group of rich people.

Some marijuana law reform advocates expressed concern leading up to the vote that if Issue 3 didn’t pass it could be many years before the state had another realistic shot at legalization, but the measure’s sponsors, known as ResponsibleOhio, have already announced that they will try again, and that they have heard the message voters sent loud and clear.

“This was, folks, the first step to legalization,” campaign manager Ian James told supporters in a concession speech on Tuesday night. “We’re not going away… We’re coming back.”

“We’ve been bloodied, but we’ve heard the voters,” added Jimmy Gould, one of the investors behind the measure. “They want to see legalization occur in Ohio… The plan that we put forth will take work to have to change because we’re gonna listen to the voters.”

Gould said that ResponsibleOhio will go back to the drawing board and draft a totally new initiative. “We’re gonna go back. We’re gonna start over. We’re gonna start from the beginning,” he said. “We will do everything we have to do. Put up whatever money we need to put up. And we are committed to making this change… Beginning tomorrow we will huddle together. We will learn from what the voters have said tonight and we will come back with a plan that works for everybody.”

James also admitted to Reuters that his team has come to the realization that the language of Issue 3 “was not to the liking of Ohio voters.”

Separately, Ohio lawmakers are already talking about taking action themselves, at least when it comes to medical marijuana. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger told reporters Wednesday that he foresees legislation being passed in the near future:

So, whether it be on the ballot or in the Statehouse, it appears that concerns about Issue 3’s defeat bringing marijuana reform efforts in the Buckeye State to a standstill were unfounded.

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