Ohio Accused of Going Too Far to Stop Pot

     CINCINNATI (CN) – A special investigator working on behalf of the state of Ohio abused his authority by subpoenaing more than a year’s worth of emails and other information related to the state’s growing pro-pot movement, a lawsuit claims.
     In a complaint filed in the Cincinnati Federal Court, the anonymous plaintiff decries the state’s actions, calling them “reminiscent of McCarthyism,” and says Secretary of State Jon Husted “sought to expose the identities and privileged communications of hundreds if not thousands” of individuals fighting to legalize marijuana.
     ResponsibleOhio – named as a defendant in the case – recently succeeded in placing a marijuana legalization issue on this year’s ballot.
     The complaint says Husted and his special investigator, David Bowers, have targeted ResponsibleOhio and its supporters in an ongoing effort to prevent legalization of the drug.
     A subpoena filed on August 24, 2015, sought “any and all documents or electronically stored information … to or from ResponsibleOhio and/or Strategy Network concerning the proposed statewide initiative” to legalize marijuana, as well as any documents “related to names of individuals who are or were volunteers and who obtained a username through the ResponsibleOhio and/or Strategy Network website.”
     The anonymous plaintiff and proposed head of a class of individuals filing the lawsuit says he “has engaged in online activity that would ostensibly be subject to disclosure under the subpoena … [but his] involvement with the ResponsibleOhio and The Strategy Network’s website has been solely for legitimate political purposes, and he has not violated any election laws by his participation in the reform movement.”
     He says the subpoena violates his First and Fourth Amendment rights and “constitutes a broad fishing expedition.”
     The complaint says: “Recognizing the stigma that is occasionally attached to those who advocate the decriminalization of marijuana, John Doe fears retribution from family, friends, neighbors and his employer and other associates if his private communications with ResponsibleOhio and The Strategy Network are publicly revealed.”
     The proposed class of individuals seeks a restraining order preventing ResponsibleOhio from releasing any of the requested information, as well as a judgment declaring the subpoena unconstitutional.
     The other defendants in the case include David Bowers, The Strategy Network LLC and its CEO, Ian James.
     The class is represented by Jennifer Knisley of Cincinnati.

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