Chicago - A controversial ballot measure which would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana - but granted a monopoly to its backers - failed to win the support of voters in the US state of Ohio Tuesday.
Opponents argued that the initiative would create a "cartel" and set the stage for similar efforts to gain monopolies across the country and state lawmakers launched an ballot measure which "protects the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit."
The marijuana initiative failed by nearly a two-to-one margin - 65 to 35 percent with nearly 70 percent of precincts reporting - according to state elections officials. The anti-monopoly amendment appeared set for a narrow victory as early results rolled in Tuesday.
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A group of wealthy investors reportedly spent $25 million on the slick campaign to legalize recreational marijuana which included a caped mascot who handed out free t-shirts and paid canvassers who knocked on a million doors to lobby voters in the midwestern state.
The constitutional amendment would have granted them the exclusive right to grow and distribute marijuana in the midwestern state.
Some 23 states have legalized medical marijuana use while four states - Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and Washington - plus the US capital city have legalized its recreational use.
Had Ohio's initiative passed it would have been the first state to legalize recreational use without first launching a medical marijuana program.
A recent Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, up sharply from just 36 percent ten years ago.
Initiatives to legalize marijuana are expected to be on the ballot in at least four states next year.