Despite a $20 million campaign in support of Issue 3, a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes in Ohio, voters have struck down the amendment in a crushing electoral defeat. The measure was voted down 64% to 36%.

Had the measure been passed into law, it would have allowed anyone age 21 or older to be able to cultivate, grow, use, possess, and share up to eight ounces of homegrown marijuana with a license. Anyone 21 or older without a license would be able to purchase, posses, transport, and share up to one ounce.


The following measures were placed before the Ohio public:

Issue 2 – The Ohio Initiated Monopolies Amendment: A “yes” vote would have prevented Issue 3 from taking effect, allowing the Ohio Ballot Board to regulate future ballot measured dealing with monopolies. A “no” vote would have left current laws unchanged.

Issue 3 – The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative: A “yes” vote would have legalized the limited sale and use of marijuana and create 10 facilities with exclusive commercial rights to grow marijuana. A “no” vote would have left current laws unchanged.


Here are some of the reasons why the measure ultimately failed:

  1. Medical legalization vs. full legalization. Ohio voters recognized that there is a big difference between full legalization and legalization for authorized medical purposes. Issue 3 may have been too ambitious in asking Ohio residents to skip to full legalization in one measure.
  2. Issues with advertising. Buddie, the campaign’s cartoonish mascot with a head shaped like a marijuana bud, left many voters unimpressed and feeling that it may make marijuana appeal to children. Even a marijuana activist called Buddie “the worst idea in the history of marijuana politics.”
  3. Issues with the movement. A number of marijuana legalization activists did not support this initiative, who felt that it would allow wealthy investors to throw money at the issue and then cash in.
  4. Confusing language. Voters were first asked to vote on whether or not they supported monopolies before being asked to vote on whether to legalize marijuana under a monopoly system. According to one analyst, the ballot title and language on Issue 2 essentially functioned as free advertising for the “No on 3” campaign because the measures should have been presented the other way around. According to a WDTN news article, many voters were left confused about what each measure was asking, and several people mistakenly made ballot selections they didn’t intend.
  5. Voter turnout. Election years tend to draw larger crowds of young, Democratic-leaning voters. Off years tend to skew older and more conservative voters, two groups who were already less likely to support Issue 3.

Marijuana is still illegal in the state of Ohio, and driving under the influence of marijuana is still a punishable offense. Had issue 3 passed, it likely would have impacted how a lawyer might defend a person allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana. The “no” vote on Issue 3 may temporarily stall rigid law enforcement when it comes to driving and marijuana use.

Although the measure failed this time, the public’s interest in legalization of medical marijuana will surely lead to a better-worded and more appropriately conceived campaign in the future.

Click here for more information on Issue 2 and Issue 3 here.

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Steven R. Adams
Steven R. Adams was a criminal defense lawyer dedicated to DUI, OVI, and criminal defense in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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