Issue 2 gets minimal attention

Backers of state Issue 2 to legalize the adult-use of recreational marijuana have implemented a low-key campaign strategy rather than draw voter attention to the proposal.

Opponents to the issue also don’t seem that motivated to get out their message.

It’s an unusual strategy, but probably an effective one for supporters with so much attention being paid to the other issue on the ballot — an abortion rights constitutional amendment.

Television commercials and, to a lesser extent, radio ads are very common during statewide campaigns in Ohio. It’s typically the largest expenses.

The pro side, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, isn’t airing any. There are some digital ads.

The opposition, led by Protect Ohio Workers and Families, isn’t on TV or radio either.

There are some commercials from Weed Free Kids, an anti-Issue 2 dark money group, but it hasn’t been a lot.

Weed Free has spent about $300,000 on TV commercials, according to Cleveland.com. I saw my first one earlier this week.

Weed Free hasn’t filed a financial disclosure report with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, the Federal Election Commission or the IRS.

In the pregeneral election reporting period, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol raised $1.1 million, which is a small sum of money for a statewide campaign. The reporting period goes from June 3 to Oct. 18, but because the coalition filed a semiannual report for the first six months of the year, the pre-general report starts in July.

During the pregeneral period, the coalition spent $818,389 with $600,378 going to Cambridge Communications LLC of Columbus for digital advertising, consulting, campaign literature and yard signs. It also paid $60,000 to Battleground Strategies LLC of Columbus for consulting.

Protect Ohio did even worse.

It reported raising $342,900 in the pregeneral election period. It depended on a $101,000 contribution from the Ohio Manufacturers Association and $100,000 from Angela Phillips, CEO of Phillips Tubes Group Inc. in Middletown, for most of its money.

Protect Ohio spent $230,258, with $68,000 to Causeway Solutions LLC of Metairie, Louisiana, for data and research services; $47,149 to Majority Strategies of Dallas for public communications; and $33,000 to Castletown Media of Lake Forest Park, Maryland, for video production.

Protect Ohio didn’t file a designation of treasurer form with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office until Aug. 9.

In its previous report, which included the first six months of this year, the coalition raised $2.9 million, with the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization that promotes the legalization of marijuana, giving $1.3 million. The coalition spent $3 million during the first half of the year with nearly all of it going to Advanced Micro Targeting Inc. of Dallas to collect signatures on petitions to get the issue on the ballot.

For a comparison, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the backers of the abortion rights amendment, raised $28.7 million and spent $26.2 million in the pre-general reporting period.

Protect Women Ohio, which opposes that constitutional amendment, raised $9.9 million and spent $9.1 million in the pre-general period.

Also, when recreational marijuana was last on the statewide ballot in 2015, a group that supported the proposal spent more than $20 million on that campaign — and the issue lost. That proposal would have given 10 facilities exclusive commercial rights to grow it.

The effort by supporters this time likely is to fly under the radar, particularly as marijuana use has become more acceptable nationally with 23 other states legalizing its recreational use.

Issue 2 would allow those adults to buy and possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis and 15 grams of concentrates. They could also grow up to six plants individually and no more than 12 in a household with multiple adults.

The recreational marijuana proposal in Ohio is an initiated statute and not a constitutional amendment, unlike Issue 1, the abortion rights proposal.

That means if Issue 2 passes, the Republican-controlled state Legislature could make changes to it.

That’s possibly why the opposition isn’t working too hard against it.

Republican legislative leaders as well as Gov. Mike DeWine oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The Legislature could water down the recreational marijuana language if the initiative is approved and continue to do so.

It’s just a matter of how much can be done.


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