Recreational marijuana enthusiasts race to get signature count higher for Ohio’s Nov. ballot

By: - July 28, 2023 4:50 am

Photo by: Sue Haidle for WEWS.

Recreational marijuana enthusiasts are racing to get their signature count higher to make Ohio’s November ballot. They need less than 700 valid signatures, a task they, and legal experts, are confident will happen — as long as the supporters focus and pay attention to detail.

Sec. of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that the proposal to legalize weed currently doesn’t have enough valid signatures to make the ballot. But the organizers get a second chance.

“We’ve got ten days,” said Tom Haren with the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, excitedly.

Ten days to make up 679 valid signatures to meet the threshold to put the effort on the ballot.

“We got the news and it was, ‘Okay, let’s go — we’re going to gather this last small amount of signatures to move on towards November,'” Haren added.

His group’s initiative would let voters choose if Ohio should legalize marijuana for adults 21 and up. If passed, Ohioans would also be able to grow up to six plants. In addition, The proposal would impose a 10% tax at the point of sale for each transaction.

Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan Entin believes the group can get the signatures, as long as they are attentive to the process.

“They’re going to want to come in with like 2,000 to 3,000 signatures,” Entin said. “They will try to be as careful as possible to make sure that the people signing are signing correctly.”

But they have to do it quickly. The cure period allows them to attempt to get the small amount missing. It’s just .5% of their total.

“The devil is going to be in the details,” the professor added. “That’s what tripped them up the first time.”

The group submitted more than 222,000 petition signatures supporting recreational marijuana in the state, which they gathered in all 88 Ohio counties over the course of eight weeks. This was about 100,000 more than was necessary to be on the ballot.

Of the signatures they collected, 123,367 were valid, just short of the required number.

In Cuyahoga County, the campaign had submitted about 30,000 signatures, with 14,073 valid – which is a 47.87% validity rate. Ballot signatures were thrown away for two main reasons: the signatures belong to people who are not registered to vote or the signatories are registered but not at the address to which they signed the petition. However, this campaign had a third reason: because of a prior attempt to get weed on the ballot, organizers were able to use signatures they got in December. But, 1,200 people signed in both December and now, so the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections had to throw away the doubles.

Just because the group failed to reach the threshold now doesn’t mean hope is lost. Cure periods have helped get issues on the ballot.

Back in 2006, an initiative to ban smoking in public places ran into a technicality and had to have tens of thousands of signatures thrown away. The grace period let them make it up and voters passed Issue 5.

“Our proposal is popular here in Ohio,” Haren said. “It’s something that continues to energize us to get ballot access.”

The new form for signature gathering is online, and social media users have already started to promote collection events across the state. These can be found in Reddit groups.

Their deadline is Aug. 4.


This article was originally published on and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.



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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.