Abortion rights, marijuana legalization groups submit signatures for Ohio ballot initiatives

Ohio reproductive rights groups submitted 700,000+ signatures to get a measure to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution on the November ballot.
Published: Jul. 4, 2023 at 1:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 5, 2023 at 11:09 AM EDT
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Representatives for pro-life and pro-choice groups joined Josh Croup on Action News Now on Wednesday to discuss next steps. Watch the full interviews in the video below.

Representatives for pro-life and pro-choice groups join Josh Croup on Action News Now to discuss next steps.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVG) - Advocacy groups working to get ballot measures on legalizing marijuana and enshrining abortion rights into the state’s constitution on the November ballot submitted signatures they’ve collected to officials on Wednesday.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and a number of groups advocating for reproductive rights submitted the signatures they’ve collected to get their initiatives on the November ballot to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office for ballot qualification. Wednesday marked the deadline for the groups to do so.

The group advocating for marijuana legalization and regulation will submitted more than 220,000 signatures to qualify for the citizen-initiated state statute, the organization said in a news release. Their ballot issue would create a framework for legalization, regulation and taxation for adults to use Cannabis in Ohio.

“The statute would implement best practices learned from the 20+ states that have already done so, including by building off of the existing medical marijuana regulatory framework and imposing a 10% tax on adult use sales,” the statement from the organization read.

The coalition of groups looking to ensure abortion rights in the state, Ohioans for Reproductive Rights, said Wednesday it filed more than 700,000 signatures.

“This is a historic day for Ohio and for reproductive freedom. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for this herculean grassroots effort to ensure patients and doctors, not government extremists, are in control of making private medical decisions. Fortunately, the Ohio Constitution gives us the ability to take this popular issue directly to the people,” said Lauren Blauvelt and Kellie Copeland of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom in a statement. “Today, we take a huge step forward in the fight for abortion access and reproductive freedom for all, to ensure that Ohioans and their families can make their own health care decisions without government interference.”

Ohio Right to Life, a pro-life group against the push to ensure abortion rights, released a statement Wednesday arguing the measure would limit parental rights in the state and grant no protections to the “preborn.”

“This amendment would also allow painful, late-term abortion in Ohio with no protections for the preborn. The ACLU just misled hundreds of thousands of Ohioans about their intention to push unlimited abortion and sex change surgeries for minors in our state,” a statement from Ohio Right to Life read.

The next steps for the ballot initiatives await the Secretary of State’s office to separate the part-petitions by county and distribute them to the corresponding boards of election for verification. The office has until the July 25th to determine the sufficiency of the petitions.

In the event either petition does not have have enough valid signatures, the sponsoring committee will have an additional ten days to file a supplementary petition with signatures from those who did not sign the original, but those signatures can only be collected within that ten-day timeframe. Those signatures would have to be verified by the 65th day ahead of the November election.

The deadline comes just over a month before the August special election asking voters whether it should be harder to change the state’s constitution. If voters pass the measure, it would increase the threshold to pass ballot initiatives from a simple majority to 60% for passage.

The GOP-backed effort to increase the threshold to pass ballot initiatives is said to be in an effort to thwart that push to enshrine abortion rights in the state before the November general election. The August special election for the 60% question received pushback after the Republican supermajority moved to prohibit August special elections just last year.

Since marijuana legalization advocates pursued a different path to the ballot, that initiative would not be subjected to the 60% threshold for constitutional amendments. It would only need a simple majority to pass at the ballot box. But even if it passes, lawmakers could, in theory, strike down the effort with new legislation since it would be implemented like any other law.

Josh Croup joins Local News Live as advocacy groups submit signatures for their ballot initiatives Wednesday.