Ohio House passes measure that might block pot ballot issue

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The Ohio House on Wednesday passed a fast-moving anti-monopoly proposal that the state’s elections chief has said could block an effort to legalize marijuana if both issues are put before and approved by voters.

The House voted 81-12 in favor of the resolution, which aims to make it more difficult to amend the constitution with ballot issues that provide commercial economic benefits to few people or create monopolies.

That could affect the marijuana legalization effort by the group ResponsibleOhio, which wants to create 10 designated grow sites around the state and is working to put that question before voters. The group has said it followed an existing process to bring forth its proposal and has accused lawmakers of trying to change the rules at the last minute.

“The people should have the right to decide the issue, up or down, this November,” the group said in a statement describing the resolution as “anti-voter.”

Legislative leaders and other critics say the ResponsibleOhio effort is a misuse of the Ohio Constitution for business interests.

Rep. Michael Curtin, D-Columbus, said the concept of a citizen-initiated ballot effort has been commandeered by the kind of wealthy special interests it was meant to counter. Officials were discussing how to address that long before this marijuana legalization appeared, Curtin said, addressing suggestions that the resolution has been rushed.

“The people’s constitution should never, ever be a shopping center for market opportunities,” Curtin told fellow lawmakers, urging them to pass the anti-monopoly resolution so that voters can consider it.

Opponents of the resolution argue the proposal is too broad and could have unintended consequences on other types of ballot issues.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, urged fellow lawmakers to reject it, suggesting it might affect future ballot issues on topics such as gay marriage, collective bargaining and the minimum wage.

If approved by lawmakers, the measure still would need approval from voters. It must clear the Legislature with a three-fifths majority before Aug. 5 to appear on fall ballots.

The resolution goes to the Senate next. Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, has said he’s hopeful his chamber will take up the measure before recessing for the summer.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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