Suburbia registered strongest opposition to pot

Posted at 2:38 PM, Dec 29, 2015

Opposition was strongest in suburbia to Ohio's first-in-the-nation effort to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in a single vote, according to an analysis of final election results.

About 7 in 10 voters in the counties that ring Columbus and Toledo voted against last fall's Issue 3, while more than 60 percent voted against it in the counties surrounding Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati, according to an analysis conducted by Columbus-based election statistics expert Mike Dawson.

Dawson said opposition was highest in affluent, well-educated suburbs -- such as Columbus' Bexley, Upper Arlington and Dublin.

"There's a real fear about drugs in the suburbs that didn't exist in the past, because of all the stuff that's going on with opiates and heroin," Dawson said. "They're worried about marijuana being a gateway drug."

The legalization question failed in every one of Ohio's 88 counties, the data showed. That's something the man who led the campaign will take into account in a possible return to the ballot in 2016.

"The self-selection of growers was a nonstarter for a large swath of pro-marijuana legalization supporters," ResponsibleOhio director Ian James said in an email. "The vote totals are indicative of this and instructive of existing support as well as navigation to a future successful effort."

Besides legalizing marijuana, the proposal would have established 10 exclusive authorized growing sites with profits going to the issue's deep-pocketed investors. Opponents labeled the network a monopoly in ads and a competing ballot effort intended to nullify legalization if it had passed.

Dawson's analysis showed Issue 3's narrowest defeat was in blue-collar Jefferson County, along the Ohio River in eastern Ohio, with 43 percent supporting it. It went down by its widest margin in rural Putnam County, in northwest Ohio, where 82 percent voted against.

Urban voters were about 5 percentage points more favorable toward the proposal on average than the rest of Ohio, according to the analysis.

About 40 percent of voters in Ohio's six largest counties voted for legalization, compared to an average of 34 percent in the remaining 82 counties combined. Dawson said that wasn't surprising considering attitudes toward marijuana tend to be less conservative in urban areas.