COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio voters in November will face two constitutional amendments that conflict with one another.
One -- a citizen-initiated amendment -- would legalize a new marijuana industry dependent on 10 predetermined growing sites. Another, which state lawmakers put on the ballot, seeks to block that business model.
What happens if they both pass?
The Ohio Constitution says if two conflicting amendments on the same ballot pass, the one that gets the most votes becomes law. But the constitution also says citizen-initiated amendments, such as the marijuana legalization amendment, become law 30 days after an election while legislature-sponsored amendments become law immediately.
Ohio's chief election official, Secretary of State Jon Husted, says it's clear: The amendment seeking to block the marijuana plan would prevail because it would take effect first.
But marijuana legalization backers who disagree with Husted's interpretation would likely challenge it in the Ohio Supreme Court, leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of the justices.
For now, here's what's important to know about the two amendments, how they got on the ballot and what might happen at the ballot box:
A well-funded group calling itself ResponsibleOhio started publicly pushing its marijuana legalization amendment in January.
ResponsibleOhio's marijuana legalization issue would allow adults age 21 and older to buy, possess and grow marijuana in limited amounts. Commercial marijuana, which would be taxed, could only be grown on 10 cannabis farms owned by campaign investors. Tax revenues would go toward local governments, cannabis research and drug abuse and addiction treatment.
State officials and lawmakers didn't like that idea, especially the fact that the 10 marijuana growing facilities would be written into the Ohio Constitution.
In May, Auditor Dave Yost proposed that lawmakers pass their own constitutional amendment to stop "special interests" from using the ballot box to enrich themselves.
One month later, Reps. Ryan Smith, a Bidwell Republican, and Mike Curtin, a Columbus-area Democrat, introduced House Joint Resolution 4.
HJR 4, known as the anti-monopoly amendment, would prohibit constitutional amendments that add monopolies, oligopolies or cartels; specify or designate tax rates; or confer a commercial right, license or interest that is not available to similarly situated persons.
Amendments that conflict with the prohibition could still get on the ballot, but there would be a second issue on the same ballot asking voters to approve suspending the rules.
On the same day ResponsibleOhio submitted nearly 700,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot, lawmakers added a provision to HJR 4 that affects only ResponsibleOhio's amendment:
"If, at the general election held on November 3, 2015, the electors approve a proposed constitutional amendment that conflicts with division (B)(1) of this section with regard to the creation of a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for the sale, distribution, or other use of any federal Schedule I controlled substance ... that entire proposed constitutional amendment shall not take effect."
Marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance, the classification for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Faith Oltman said the anti-monopoly amendment was targeted at marijuana legalization, not protecting the Constitution. ResponsibleOhio plans to campaign against the anti-monopoly issue in addition to supporting its marijuana legalization issue.
"The only certain thing if both amendments pass is that it's going to be tied up in litigation," Oltman said.
One possibility is the court might decide to rule that marijuana is legal but the monopoly portions would be stricken.
But Steven Steinglass, dean emeritus of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and a constitutional law expert, said he doubted that would be possible. Steinglass said the structure of ResponsibleOhio's amendment would make it difficult to let legal use stand because everything is intertwined.
By Jackie Borchardt,
on August 17, 2015