- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A legislative proposal in Ohio could block an effort to legalize marijuana in the state should both issues appear on fall ballots and be approved by voters, the state’s top elections official said Friday.

Secretary of State Jon Husted said his office has been asked about potential outcomes as backers of each issue seek to reserve a place on the November ballot. Neither has so far.

The group ResponsibleOhio wants to legalize marijuana and create 10 designated grow sites around the state - some of which investors have already purchased. They say they have more than enough signatures for their proposed constitutional amendment to ask voters to approve it.

Legislative leaders and other opponents say such a proposal is a misuse of the Ohio Constitution for business interests.

A resolution pending in the House seeks to make it harder to amend the constitution with ballot issues that provide economic benefits to few individuals or create monopolies. Voters also would have to approve that proposal, which must clear the Legislature with a three-fifths majority before Aug. 5 to appear on fall ballots.

Husted said in a written statement Friday that the two issues would be in conflict with each other. And he said, “the Ohio constitution clearly establishes a resolution to this conflict by declaring that the amendment that receives the greater number of votes prevails.”

The Legislature’s proposal also could trump the marijuana issue another way.

Under the constitution, citizen-initiated petitions like ResponsibleOhio’s proposal take effect 30 days after passage, Husted said. The constitution makes no mention of any delay for initiatives that state lawmakers place before the voters.

That means, according to Husted, that the Legislature’s proposal would go into effect first if both are approved and “could serve as an effective roadblock” to the marijuana issue.

“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.

Ian James, ResponsibleOhio’s executive director, called lawmakers “calculated and strategic” in their amendment writing. He said the group would continue to collect signatures from Ohioans who want to see marijuana legalization on the ballot.

“This anti-voter amendment makes clear that if lawmakers had their way, they would trump the will of the people,” James said in a written statement.

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