CLEVELAND - The race is on for supporters of legalized marijuana to get the issue on the Ohio ballot in November.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office announced Tuesday that the group behind the marijuana amendment, ResponsibleOhio, does not have enough valid signatures.
Of the 660,190 signatures submitted by ResponsibleOhio, only 276,082 were deemed valid by local boards of elections. That falls short of the required 305,591 valid signatures, or 10 percent of total votes for governor in the most recent election.
Petitioners now have 10 days, until July 30, to collect nearly 30,000 additional valid signatures.
“I would like to see people actually have that choice to make that decision,” said Ada Gilbert, of Cleveland, who signed the petition.
The amendment would legalize marijuana, establish 10 commercial grow sites and allow people to grow up to four plants at home. It would also establish medical marijuana dispensaries and marijuana retail stores.
ResponsibleOhio’s Cleveland office spent the day formulating a game plan for the coming days, a spokesperson said. Statewide, 200 people will work to collect signatures in person, by email and through the group’s website, according to Executive Director Ian James.
“We want to make this as easy as possible for folks,” he said, expressing confidence that the group can gather enough valid signatures by the deadline.
Most invalid signatures came from the state's most populated counties. In Cuyahoga County, 59 percent of the 105,253 submitted signatures were not valid, and in Summit County, 58 percent of 25,347 submitted signatures were not valid, according to numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office.
James said ResponsibleOhio will focus its efforts on non-metro areas, such as Lake, Geauga, Medina, Portage and Lorain counties.
“We're really trying to get out of the metro areas and into the non-metro areas. We saw a high validity rate in those areas,” James said.
Each county board of elections verifies signatures, making sure they're from registered voters who live at their address, which could take several weeks. However, ballot language must be finalized by Aug. 25 at the latest.
James said ResponsibleOhio also plans to file a lawsuit, claiming some valid signatures were not counted.