Last Tuesday, Ohioans voted overwhelmingly to legalize recreational marijuana and enshrine reproductive freedom into the State Constitution—and young people, in particular, played a massive role in these results.
While liberals led at 85% in approval of Issue 2, the marijuana statute, voters under 30 followed closely at 84%, according to NBC News’ exit poll.
Northeast Ohio voted yes across the board, led by Cuyahoga County, one of the only counties in the region that former President Donald Trump did not win in 2016 nor 2020, sporting a 74% approval for abortion access and 67% for marijuana legalization.
Indeed, Cuyahoga has a pattern of voting blue, as well as supporting causes heavily backed by Democrats. The county voted blue in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and the 2018 and 2022 midterm elections.
With Cleveland State University located in Cuyahoga, the role of student voters was underscored by student groups, many of which shared their thoughts on the outcome of the election.
“What Issues 1 and 2 passing means to us is that activism–in particular, student activism–makes a difference,” Joshua Ferry, secretary of the Ohio Student Association at CSU shared with The Cauldron. “Don’t underestimate the power given to the people. We’re making a difference as it shows at the polls.”
Moving forward, CSU OSA plans on collaborating with other chapters across Ohio to defeat Republican State Senator Jerry Cirino’s Higher Education Enhancement Act, which the student group describes as “the higher ed censorship bill.”
Cleveland State College Democrats also applauded the election’s results.
“CSU Dems is overjoyed at the results of [Nov. 7’s] referendums,” President Leo Kenealy said. “These results prove that when people care deeply about politics, they can enact wide-reaching change. We would like to thank everyone who supported Issues 1 and 2, as they helped protect Ohioans’ liberties.”
The group plans to channel the success of this election cycle into that of next year.
“CSU Dems will carry the momentum from this election into 2024, when we will fight for the re-election of Senator Sherrod Brown,” added Kenealy.
On the other hand, Advocates for Life, the pro-life student organization outspoken against abortion and Issue 1, expressed disappointment in the outcome.
“Although we are disappointed by the results of the election last night, the fight is far from over,” President Ilyssa Freiburger shared in a statement. “Making a case for LIFE on the human rights issue of our day–abortion–will not be finished in a single election cycle.”
Freiburger added that the campaign for Issue 1 worked to deceive voters to sway the election in its favor, and that the fight against abortion was always destined to be an uphill battle:
“The abortion industry spent millions upon millions of dollars to sway the Ohio election in their favor. They put out deceptive ads about Issue 1 that lied about miscarriage care, parental rights, and women’s safety. We are not done fighting for Ohio.
The day after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, we didn’t have a Black president, and the day after women got the right to vote, they were not fully recognized and protected in American society.
We are only 1 year into a post-Roe America and we knew this would be an uphill battle. Our work is cut out for us, but like other great social issue movements, we will continue to stand and fight for those who cannot defend themselves.”
Freiburger concluded the statement by reiterating the mission of Advocates for Life, even in light of what the group deems to be a setback.
“Our work remains the same: Create a safety net for women and their children, born and preborn, and build a framework for legal protections for women and preborn children.”
Issues 1 and 2: What happens next?
With the passage of Issue 1, reproductive medical freedoms, including abortion, will now be enshrined into the Ohio Constitution, as well as protections for persons or entities assisting those receiving reproductive medical treatment.
The State can still ban abortion before fetal viability, unless the treating physician determines that abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant individual’s life or health.
Ultimately, Issue 1 protects Ohioans from strict abortion bans such as the Heartbeat Bill, which was previously indefinitely blocked.
The passage of Issue 2 legalizes the “cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, possession, home grow, and use” of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in the state. It also establishes a regulatory Division of Cannabis and an additional 10% tax on marijuana sales.
However, since Issue 2 is a statute, the state legislature can modify the law. In fact. Gov. Mike DeWine has already called on legislators to make certain changes, particularly to establish protections for children and adults who don’t wish to inhale or smell marijuana, as well as to reduce the number of drivers under the influence.
“We respect what the people have done,” said DeWine. “What the people have clearly told us is they want legal marijuana in Ohio. We are going to see that they have that. We’re also going to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it.”