UPDATES: Issue 1 – RMLA – Courage in Cannabis launch

Several months have passed since the Ohio General Assembly decided to force its absolute power over statewide ballot initiatives with Issue 1, slated for an August 8th special election. This move is so foundationally important that it deserves tracking and updates. Here we go:                                            


The Right to Reproductive Freedom proposed citizen-led constitutional amendment has made the fall 2023 ballot. As Secretary of State Frank LaRose stated, “I hereby certify that petitioners submitted 495,938 total valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative.” The required number was 413,487. The Ballot Board will now prescribe the wording to appear on ballot. The results from the August 8th vote on Issue 1 will determine whether the passing percentage is 50.1 percent or 60 percent.

The campaign to place the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (RMLA) initiated statute on the fall ballot has fallen 679 valid signatures short of the 124,046 required. Apparently, there were sufficient signatures to meet the 44-county requirement. Fortunately, the 10-day “cure period” can be used to collect the signature shortfall.


If passed, this General Assembly Initiated Constitutional Amendment would increase the passing percentage for constitutional amendments from a simple majority of 50 percent+1 to a supermajority of 60 percent. It also eliminates the 10-day “cure period” to collect extra signatures when too many get rejected, and mandates that 5 percent of signatures come from all 88 Ohio counties (not just 44 counties presently), at great cost to any campaign.

Here is the Certified Ballot Language for Issue 1.

Here is the Certified Explanation. Here is the lawsuit that challenged the explanation.

Here is the Certified Argument in favor.

Here is the Certified Argument against.

Read about Issue 1 in the May edition of Mary Jane’s Guide for the Columbus Free Press.


Voting has already begun for this controversial General Assembly Initiated Constitutional Amendment. After the voter registration deadline on July 10th, early voting began the next day on July 11th, as did absentee voting. And voting has been brisk according to Secretary of State LaRose’s office. Over 155,000 Ohio voters cast either absentee or early ballots, eclipsing the May 2022 primary election. As the spokesperson for the Franklin County Board of Elections noted, “I don’t think we anticipated having between 1,600 to 1,800 voters a day here voting in-person. That said, we are able to handle it …” Voting by method be tracked here.


When the General Assembly passed a resolution in May to both field their initiated constitutional amendment and set a special election for August 8, several legal scholars questioned the move. "It's very unlikely that the legislature could actually set an August election simply by passing this resolution," reasoned one of them. Why? Because that body had enacted H.B. 458 last year to eliminate those costly, low voter turnout elections. Even though in May the Ohio Senate did pass legislation coupling the amendment and August election, the Ohio house was unable to do the same. The resolution alone, without an enabling bill, became the solution. And, that ‘solution’ became fodder for a lawsuit. Unfortunately, on June 16th, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled along trifecta party lines that last year’s bill does not bar the General Assembly from staging special elections this year. The August 8th election for Issue 1 is on!


Public opinion polls for Issue 1 and abortion generally are favorable. A USA Today Network/Suffolk University poll released on 7/20/23 found that, in answer to the simple question – “Do you support or oppose Issue 1?” – 57 percent of 500 likely voters (margin of error +/- 4.4 percent) oppose, while just 26 percent support; 17 percent remain undecided. In addition, two thirds of those supporting the proposed reproductive rights amendment oppose Issue 1.

A Scripps News/YouGov poll fielded in June posed the question, “An Ohio proposed amendment aims to safeguard personal autonomy on matters such as abortion, contraception, and fertility treatment. Do you agree or disagree with this proposition?" Of the 500 Ohio respondents (margin of error +/- 5.9 percent), 58 percent said that they agreed, with 23 percent disagreeing and 20 percent unsure. Forty-five percent firmly held that opinion, while just 12 percent strongly disagreed. However, the question, “Ohio law requires more than 50 percent of voters to approve a change to the state's Constitution. Do you agree or disagree with an effort to increase that threshold to 60 percent?” Here, support is less robust. Agreement (38 percent) and disagreement (37 percent) are virtually identical, with a slightly lower 26 percent being unsure.

Another Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse Poll conducted last November found that 63.4 percent of women and 54.7 percent of men for a total of 59.1 percent favor making abortion a fundamental right in Ohio. Another Suffolk University poll from June 2022 (prior to the Roe v Wade reversal) had 53 percent wishing to protect abortion rights in Ohio and 39 percent preferring legislative restrictions on the procedure. In a September 2022 poll from Spectrum News/Siena College Research Institute, 60 percent opposed overturning Roe and 55 percent opposed “heartbeat bills.” Unsurprisingly, women, Democrats, and independents voiced the strongest opposition.


More than 250 unions and community groups oppose Issue 1. They range from labor unions like the AFL-CIO and United Steelworkers, to educational groups such as the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers. The vast number of official opponents can be seen here.

Issue 1 is faring poorly among Ohio’s former officials. Take governors, for example. Speaking out against Issue 1 are Bob Taft (R), John Kasich (R), Dick Celeste (D), and Ted Strickland (D). In a letter to the General Assembly, Taft wrote, “It is especially bad public policy to revive the August special election for the purpose of voting on such a consequential constitutional amendment …

The former governors were not alone. Another letter opposing Issue 1 was sent to every state senator and representative and was signed by former Secretaries of State Betty Montgomery (R), Jim Petro (R), Richard Cordray (D), Lee Fisher (D), and Nancy Rogers (D). They wrote, “Constitutions are designed to endure, and major changes in fundamental constitutional arrangements should not be made unless the changes are supported by a careful understanding of the policies being changed and the consequences of the proposed changes.” The Ohio Mayors Alliance in their opposition added, “We are also concerned that a significant change to the state constitution would be hastily advanced without full consideration of the unintended consequences.”

WHAT ABOUT NEWSPAPERS? Excoriating opinion pieces abound:

Ohio amendment: Why would citizens cede more power to their state government?”, Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board on 5/21/23.

Failing to inform voters what Ohio Issue 1 would actually do is patently unconstitutional,“ Editorial, on 5/24/23.

"The Statehouse con on selling Issue 1 in the Aug. 8 election, exposed,” Editorial, on 6/4/23.

Issue 1 and its misleading ballot language are just the latest bid to impair Ohioans’ voting rights,” Editorial, on 6/16/23.

Former Gov. Taft: Issue 1 is ‘state leaders trying to game the system,” Journal-News, 6/29/23.

Disgusting Issue 1 surrender by tiny board minority at Ohio Chamber,” Opinion, on 7/9/23.

Power-hungry hypocrites' trying to con Ohio. Issue 1 about dominance, deceit,Editorial Board, Columbus Dispatch on 7/10/23.

Ohio Issue 1 isn’t about any one issue — It’s about every issue and the power Ohio voters have,” Commentary, Ohio Capital Journal on 7/11/23.

Issue 1 smells. A “no” vote will send message to out-of-control Ohio lawmakers,” by Thomas Suddes, in Columbus Dispatch on 7/16/23.

8 reasons for why Issue 1 is wrong for all Ohioans, even conservatives,” Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board on 7/19/23.

More opinions can be read here:


For the most part, the usual suspects. The legislators who passed the General Assembly Initiated Constitutional Amendment, of course. Their vote along strict party lines can be viewed here. For inclusion on the ballot, supporters wrote, Issue 1, “protects our Constitution from deep-pocketed, out-of-state interests.”

With Secretary of State LaRose’s slip of the tongue, we know in reality, “This is 100 percent about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November.” Of course, Ohio Right to Life as a vocal proponent stated on their website, “The abortion lobby is currently attempting to enshrine abortion up until birth with zero restrictions …” Um, no, the amendment reads, “abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability.”

Other supporters include the Ohio Republican Party, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ohio Farm Bureau, and Ohio Sportsmen Alliance.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce endorsed Issue 1, or did it? They said that they are taking “no position on the November election’s reproductive rights issue,” yet they claim to have endorsed Issue 1. As reported in, “Between 50 and 53 of the board’s 93 members attended the meeting. But only 36 members voted on the motion to endorse Issue 1, with 24 in favor and 12 against. Do the math. The chamber endorsed Issue 1 based on support from just under 26% of its 93 board members. That’s a bit less than the 60% requirement that want to impose on voters.”


Because Issue 1 concerns a constitutional amendment, even though initiated by the General Assembly, the campaigns for and against must form political action committees (PACs) and file campaign finance reports with the Ohio Secretary of State. Reports are generally submitted on the half year, with the most recent being December 2022. Reports for the first half of 2023 must be filed by 7/31/23. The opponent PAC is One Person, One Vote, and the proponent PACs include Protect Our Constitution,  Protect Women Ohio, Protect Women Ohio Action, Inc., Protect Women Ohio Fund. Issue 1 supporters also received $1.1 million from the ultraconservative Illinois billionaire, Richard Uihlein, who donated to both the Save Our Constitution Super PAC and the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capital. The opposition’s PACs are the Progress Action Fund (PAF) and the 501(c)(4) Educate Ohio Action Fund.


No discussion of ballot initiatives and grift would be complete without mentioning former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder, who, along with former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges, was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy by a federal jury in March, just as the General Assembly began to consider Issue 1. Householder received a 20-year federal prison sentence; Borges got five years. The former speaker was convicted of taking $61 million in bribes from Ohio utilities to pass House Bill 6 in 2019 that allocated $1.3 billion to bailout two nuclear power plants. Angry citizens attempted to field a veto referendum to repeal the law, but the grifters intervened with an extensive campaign of “petition blocking.” With enough voters confused and discouraged, the campaign failed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot. But Householder wasn’t done. He subsequently put forth a proposal to amend the Ohio constitution and change its term limits clause so he could remain speaker for another 16 years. Larry Householder illustrates just how far the trifecta will go to thwart ballot initiatives and the will of the People. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.


To protect reproductive freedom, activists are fielding the “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety” proposed citizen-led constitutional amendment. The Ohio Attorney General and Ballot Board certified the measure on their first passes in March. The campaign was required to collect 413,487  valid signatures of registered Ohio voters by July 5th, targeting the Fall 2023 general election on November 7th.  It was able to gather necessary signatures from the 44 counties, and should it fall short, it can still utilize the “cure period” to collect more. The passage percentage in the fall will depend on the outcome of Issue 1: if it fails, the threshold will remain the same as it has been since 1912 – simple majority of 50 percent + 1; if Issue 1 passes, the margin will increase to a 60 percent super majority of voters.

On 7/5/23, the groups, Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Protect Choice Ohio, submitted a total of 710,131 signatures in 422 boxes to the Ohio Secretary of State (SoS). That is 296,643 or 43 percent more than required. The SoS, via Ohio’s boards of election, has until July 25th to validate the signatures and certify the amendment for the fall ballot.


In the field and collecting signatures at the same time as the reproductive rights amendment was a citizen-initiated statute to legalize adult use cannabis in Ohio called Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (RMLA). This mechanism of direct democracy is really just a legislative bill fielded by ordinary citizens under specified procedures that are similar to those for constitutional amendments and referendums. Initiated statutes, however, are unaffected by Issue 1. As legislation, they can be modified or even overturned by the General Assembly. (Constitutional amendments can only be overridden by another constitutional amendment.)

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), a statewide ballot issue PAC, submitted 222,198 signatures in 254 boxes to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office on the statutory deadline, July 5th. Recall that initiated statutes go through two phases. Signatures are collected to place the ballot language before the General Assembly. If it fails to act, the committee can collect the balance, which is what the CRMLA did. The threshold for phase two is 124,046 valid voter signatures, 1.5 percent from 44 counties. The SoS has until July 25th to verify these signatures with the county boards of election. If signatures fall short, the campaign will be given an additional 10 day “cure period” to collect the balance. Once the requisite number has been achieved, the SoS will certify the initiative, and the committee and the Ballot board will craft pro and con arguments. If passed, the measure will go into effect 30 days after the election.

There are signs that the state recognizes the real possibility that the RMLA will pass. For one, on July 4th, the state operating budget included a clause establishing a Division of Marijuana Control within the Department of Commerce. The transition is to be complete by the end of the year. The RMLA creates such a division, as does H.B. 168, the “Enact Adult Use Act. Reps. Jamie Callender (R-61) and Casey Weinstein (D-37) introduced the bill on 5/8/23. It was assigned to the Finance Committee on 5/23/23 with no further action.

Here is a document that overviews the initiated statute process using the RMLA as an example.

Here are bullet points that outline the RMLA’s provisions.

Here is a Mary Jane’s Guide article that deep dives into the RMLA.

Here is the legislative language of H.B. 168, the Enact Adult Use Act.


It takes courage to stand on the statehouse steps and launch a citizen-let constitutional amendment. It takes courage to endure the slings and arrows that go along with ballot issues as we’ve seen with Issue 1. And it takes courage to speak truth to power – repeatedly.

That’s the theme of a short presentation that Mary Jane will give at the Speakers Showcase during the launch of Courage in Cannabis, Volume 2: The Triumphant Stories. The talk will cover many of the items mentioned in this article. Please mark your calendars:

  • Courage in Cannabis Speakers Showcase Volume II: Saturday, July 29, 2023 – 2:00-4:00 pm EDT. Register to attend:
  • The e-book of Triumphant Stories will be released on July 29th.
  • Paperback of Triumphant Stories is available online and in bookstores. August 1, 2023. Can be preordered here.

Courage in Cannabis in the brainchild of Dr. Bridget Williams, M.D., who published Courage in Cannabis: An Anthology of Inspiring Stories Written by Heroes in 2021. The new volume, The Triumphant Stories, celebrates everyday heroes who have found purpose through their relationship with cannabis.

Following the success of the first edition – which won several awards, including Best New Release and International Bestseller on Amazon – Volume 2 promises to be another compelling read that will challenge the stigma associated with cannabis and showcase the incredible potential of this plant.

The book features contributions from doctors, lawyers, patients, caregivers, participants in the legacy market, entrepreneurs, and advocates, who candidly share their personal experiences and the lessons learned from their journey. The stories show that, even in challenging times, perseverance, resilience, and -yes- courage shine through.


HOW to VOTE – Tuesday, August 8, 2023

  1. Find out if you are eligible. You must meet certain criteria to vote in Ohio: 18+ years old, Ohio resident for at least 30 days and not incarcerated, among others.
  2. Check your voter registration with the Ohio Secretary of State (SoS). Click here. You can register to vote, update your address, or just make sure your information is correct. Here’s a FAQ on voting from the SoS.
  3. Find out where you vote. Polling places can change from election to election. The Secretary of State provides this information here. See the clickable map or choose the Ohio county in which you reside.
  4. Make your plans before you vote. You can vote in person at your polling place on election day, or in person at an early voting location starting 7/11/2023 (hours vary), or by absentee ballot requested from the Secretary of State. Here are absentee ballot instructions.
  5. Mark your calendar now, make a plan, and JUST SAY NO to ISSUE 1!!


Mary Jane Borden is a best-selling author, skilled graphic artist, and award-winning cannabis activist from Westerville, Ohio. During her 40-year career in drug policy, she co-founded seven cannabis-oriented groups, co-authored four proposed constitutional amendments, lobbied for six medical marijuana bills, penned 100+ Columbus Free Press articles, and has given hundreds of media interviews. She is one of the Courage in Cannabis authors, with articles in both editions. Her artwork can be viewed at and she can be reached at maryjaneborden@