Will of the voters? Republicans in Ohio pledge to push back on abortion, marijuana

A majority of Ohio voters on Tuesday chose to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution and legalize recreational marijuana.

Almost immediately, the state’s top Republican leaders promised they would try to unravel what voters approved.

More: Ohio votes to legalize recreational marijuana

Unofficial results show about 56% of voters backed Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that codifies the right to abortion access and other reproductive health care. Issue 2, which also passed with 56% of the vote, is a state law that will allow adults 21 and older to buy, possess and grow marijuana. Both take effect in 30 days.

I can’t believe in 2023 we’re actually talking about elected officials not respecting the will of the voters and not respecting the outcome of an election,” said Tom Haren, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “I expect, I think that every single voter in Ohio has a right to expect, that elected officials will implement and respect the will of voters.”

Since Issue 2 is an initiated statute, lawmakers can easily change it − and were promising to do so even before the election. House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, said Tuesday night that the Legislature should reallocate tax revenue from the adult-use program to invest more in jail construction and law enforcement training.

More: Ohio Issue 1: Voters pass abortion rights amendment

Stephens’ home Lawrence County voted in favor of Issue 2, as did several other reliably Republican counties.

Meanwhile, Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, has a full list of changes he wants to make.

“This statute was written by the marijuana industry and should not be treated as a cash grab for their cash crop at the expense of a state trying to emerge from the opioid epidemic,” Huffman said. “The General Assembly may consider amending the statute to clarify the questionable language regarding limits for THC and tax rates as well as other parts of the statute.”

What Ohio Republicans are saying about Issue 1

The two GOP leaders issued similar warnings about the abortion amendment, even though it’s difficult to repeal a constitutional amendment once it’s on the books. Both Huffman and Stephens supported a failed effort in August to make it harder to change the constitution, which aimed to thwart the abortion amendment.

Stephens said Tuesday’s vote isn’t the end of the conversation: “The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life.”

Huffman echoed that sentiment, suggesting voters could see abortion issues on the ballot again in the future.

“Life is worth fighting for. As a grandparent of eight, the life of a baby is always worth the fight,” Huffman said. “The national abortion industry funded by wealthy out-of-state special interests spent millions to pass this radical language that goes far past abortion on demand. This isn’t the end. It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”

A spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine declined to comment Tuesday night.

Democrats, for their part, said the election proved Ohioans support abortion access and don’t want the GOP-controlled Legislature restricting it.

“I never underestimate with this Republican supermajority that is drunk on power, what they will plan to do,” House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said. “But at the end of the day, the people of Ohio have spoken very loudly and clearly on this issue − not (just) tonight, but also in August − that they want abortion rights and they want personal freedom.”

USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau reporter Jessie Balmert contributed.

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Republicans in Ohio pledge to push back on abortion, marijuana measures

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