Trimmed marijuana flowers line a tray at Denver marijuana retailer Medicine Man in December 2013. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Ohio legalization group reports spending $2 million in effort

The report shows that ResponsibleOhio raised nearly $1.7 million during the first half of the year from investors with a stake in the marijuana growing sites outlined in its proposed constitutional amendment

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A group working to get a marijuana legalization issue on Ohio’s fall ballot has spent more than $2 million in its effort so far this year and has about $82,000 in cash on hand, according to a campaign finance report filed on Friday.

The report shows that ResponsibleOhio raised nearly $1.7 million during the first half of the year from investors with a stake in the marijuana growing sites outlined in its proposed constitutional amendment. No names of individual donors were listed in the group’s semi-annual report, just the corporations tied to the private investors. Almost all donations from the entities were for $50,000 or more.

The ballot issue campaign was among those reporting political fundraising and spending to the state’s elections chief on Friday.

Candidates and other committees also were to disclose their contributions and expenses through June 30, though they can include items beyond that date.

ResponsibleOhio paid almost $1.6 million to The Strategy Network, which has helped coordinate the signature drive to get the issue on the November ballot. It’s the consulting firm of the campaign’s executive director, Ian James.

The group’s proposal would mark one of the nation’s most significant leaps in marijuana policy, taking Ohio from a complete prohibition against cannabis use to legalization for both medical and recreational uses.

ResponsibleOhio’s constitutional amendment would allow adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana for medicinal or recreational use and to grow up to four plants for personal use. It would also set up a network of 10 authorized growing locations around the state, which have attracted the private investors, and lay out a regulatory and taxation scheme for cannabis.

The issue has yet to qualify for the ballot. On Thursday, ResponsibleOhio submitted additional petition signatures to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office, which will review them and determine whether the proposal will appear before voters.

Other details from Friday’s campaign filings:

— Backers of a proposal to change how Ohio draws its state legislative districts raised $26,000 as they seek to get voters to approve the idea this fall. Almost all the money raised by Fair Districts for Ohio comes from the Ohio Education Association, which gave a $25,000 contribution.

— The campaign committee for Ohio Senate Republicans, who control the chamber, reported raising nearly $2.6 million.

— Ohio House Democrats, who are in the minority in their chamber, raised almost $410,000 between their two campaign funds. That’s more than twice the contributions raised in the same report in 2013.