Pot legalization effort in US heartland takes many paths

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Pot legalization effort in US heartland takes many paths.

A ballot proposal before Ohio voters next month would be the first in the nation to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in a single vote. COLUMBUS >> A group seeking to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana in Ohio has more than half a million dollars in campaign cash on hand ahead of the Nov. 3 election, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday. It’s funded by private investors and mounted in an off-year election cycle, the only marijuana-related question on any state ballot this year. “The reason that we’re a battleground state is because we shake it up. ResponsibleOhio’s political action committee has raised nearly $12 million in the past three months to support its proposed constitutional amendment and spent roughly the same amount over that time period, its report shows. That means roughly $4 million has been spent on TV ads so far — with varying messages targeted at parents, military veterans, blacks, union members and senior citizens.

It means kids in wheelchairs promoting medical marijuana, a green bud-shaped mascot trolling college campuses and a tough-on-crime prosecutor touting economic benefits to cash-strapped police departments. The lengthy ballot initiative lays out a regulatory and taxation scheme for cannabis and creates a network of 10 authorized growing facilities — including one in Lorain — which have already attracted private investors. ResponsibleOhio filed its campaign finance report with the state’s election chief on the same day that a new analysis from the Center for Public Integrity shows the group has spent an estimated $3.75 million to air nearly 8,200 television ads across the state. The center analyzed political advertising on broadcast television from 210 media markets around the country, based on data from Kantar Media/CMAG, a media tracking firm offering widely accepted estimates of money spent to air each spot. It costs over $1 million a week in an off year to be on TV.” That’s the reason the campaign solicited deep-pocketed investors who will have exclusive right to 10 authorized marijuana growing sites and combined the more popular medical-marijuana issue with recreational pot appealing to younger voters.

Its vast wealth — $12 million spent and $12 million more raised last quarter — has allowed for constant polling and strategy re-adjustment. “The problem as I see it is that their campaign looks like a mess, because they’ve attempted to triangulate or differentiate so many messages that their opportunism is readily apparent,” said state Rep. Detractors say ResponsibleOhio picked 2015 to get ahead of an anticipated onslaught of legalization proposals expected during the 2016 presidential election. The campaign’s prospectus told potential investors they’d be “on the front line of a projected $1+ billion annual sale potential” and positioned for business returns elsewhere. It prohibits economic monopolies from being placed in Ohio’s constitution and makes sure to specifically apply to the growing-site network proposed by ResponsibleOhio. Ohio Farmers Union spokesman Ron Sylvester said the idea of “markets rigged for already wealthy interests” prompted his group’s opposition: “Frankly, we didn’t even have to engage members on issues of morality.” Daniel A.

Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, said the anti-monopoly campaign could be enough to sink Ohio’s legalization question. “For opposition campaigns, you just have to find the one silver bullet to derail an initiative,” he said. “Proponents have to defend all aspects of it.”

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