Marijuana legalization group turns in more signatures

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A campaign to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use in Ohio submitted more signatures Thursday as it tries to get the issue before fall voters.

Organizers for ResponsibleOhio said they gathered about 96,000 additional signatures after the state’s elections chief said they fell short by 29,509. The state had required at least 305,591 signatures.

Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office must now verify the 95,572 supplemental signatures and determine whether the proposal qualifies for the ballot.

The group’s signatures have been the subject of increased scrutiny and sparing.

ResponsibleOhio claimed that it had initially turned in more than 695,000 petition signatures, though Husted’s office said earlier this month it had received fewer signatures and found thousands were invalid. ResponsibleOhio says it expects to challenge the evaluation of signatures that were tossed out and others it said were not counted.

On Wednesday, Husted named a special investigator to review what he calls “significant disparities” in the group’s petitions. He also subpoenaed the campaign’s executive director, Ian James, and his consulting firm, The Strategy Network, for records to aid in the investigation.

James has said that ResponsibleOhio followed the law and brought the discrepancies cited by Husted to his office’s attention. James expressed confidence Thursday that Ohioans would have the chance to cast a ballot on the marijuana issue this fall.

“The enthusiastic and overwhelming response we’ve received from hundreds of thousands of voters across the state has shown us one thing – it’s time for marijuana legalization in Ohio,” James said in a written statement.

The proposal from ResponsibleOhio would mark one of the nation’s most significant leaps in marijuana policy, taking Ohio from a complete prohibition against cannabis use to legalization for both medical and recreational uses.

The group wants to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana for medicinal or recreational use and to grow up to four plants for personal use. It would also set up a network of 10 authorized growing locations around the state, some that have already attracted private investors, and lay out a regulatory and taxation scheme for cannabis.

A separate issue already on the fall ballot will ask the state’s voters to ban monopolies and cartels from being added to Ohio’s constitution. It takes aim at the 10 marijuana-growing sites described in the proposed amendment.

If the two amendments appear together on the fall ballot, officials say the anti-monopoly measure is written to prevail.

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

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