Aug 012013
 

ohio marijuana medical marijuana legalizationBy Phillip Smith

Medical marijuana backers in the Buckeye State hope the third time is the charm. After twice failing to move initiative efforts in the past couple of years, activists have unveiled a third campaign, this one aimed at putting the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment (OCRA) on the ballot for the November 2014 elections.

Medical marijuana has broad popular support in Ohio — a March Columbus Dispatch poll had support at 63% — and a victory in Ohio would plant medical marijuana firmly in the Midwest. So far in the region, only Michigan has a medical marijuana law, although Illinois could be a medical marijuana state by the time you read these words–a bill there awaits the governor’s signature.

Proponents have a tough path to follow. To qualify for the ballot, they need to gather some 385,000 valid voter signatures in the next 11 months, including at least 5% of voters from each of half of the state’s 88 counties. Those are the kind of signature requirements that typically require paid signature-gathering campaigns. Ohio Rights, the people behind the OCRA, are looking for big-name funding, but right now, their campaign is relying on a network of volunteers.

“For now, it’s an all-volunteer effort,” said campaign spokesperson Mary Jane Borden (no relation to StoptheDrugWar.org executive director David Borden), who in addition to campaigning for marijuana reform at home is also a past editor of that valuable compendium of drug policy information, Drug War Facts. “We will definitely be approaching big donors, but we would like to match them dollar-for-dollar in smaller contributions, like Obama, who collected hundreds of millions in small donations.”

The campaign will in part pitch itself to donors as a jobs campaign, Borden said.

“Not only will the OCRA create an ethical industry and lots of jobs once it passes,” she said, “but getting the amendment on the ballot itself can be a jobs creator if we get the funding. Doing a campaign like that creates jobs, and that’s an important message in Ohio.”

In the meantime, it’s volunteer time, and that’s off to a good start, said Borden. “It’s been a real whirlwind and very gratifying,” she said. “We went through all this work to craft the initiative, and this army of people comes out to us. It’s happening almost organically. We have county captains in 40 counties now, and multiple captains in the larger counties.”

The OCRA bases itself on rights enumerated in the Ohio constitution, particularly Article I, Section I, which says that Ohioans are “by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.”

“We thought the rights approach was the best approach,” said Borden. “We saw that a lot of these laws passed in other states didn’t really go to the rights. You might avoid jail for possession, but you forfeit your rights. People are losing jobs, losing custody of their children, losing housing. There is no effective right to use.”

The language of the initiative itself reflects that approach. Eligible residents not only have the right to use medical marijuana, but to do so “free of discrimination and interference from the state of Ohio” as well as the right to privacy and confidentiality, the right not to get busted for impaired driving based solely on the presence of marijuana metabolites, and the right to grow their own.

The initiative would legalize, license, tax, and regulate medical marijuana; create an open-ended list of qualifying diseases and conditions; create an Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control to oversee medical marijuana; and allow for industrial hemp production to boot.

It’s already picking up some big-name supporters. On July 19, famed country singer (and pot aficionado) Willie Nelson came to Cincinnati for a concert, and before the show, he formally endorsed the OCRA. The Cincinnati chapter of Nelson’s Teapot Party and Happy Hemptress Lynne Wilson set up a meeting and invited Ohio Rights activists, and Nelson came on board.

“Willie is a member of the choir, of course, but he’s a big name, too,” said Borden. “We’re very excited to have him on board.”

And now, the campaign is starting to generate some opposition. On Wednesday, a group of medical professionals held a press conference in Columbus to speak out against the initiative. The star speaker for the opposition was Dr. Andrea Barthwell, who served in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.

“Doctors have something that is FDA approved, reliable and tested to treat every illness people claim will be better, or reduced suffering, when using marijuana,” said Barthwell.

Ohio Rights takes the opposition attention in stride.

“It’s the usual suspects,” said Borden. “The treatment industry is scared to death it will lose clients. And they did their press conference with very little notice, because they’re scared we’ll be down there counter-demonstrating.”

The campaign now has until next July 2 to hand in signatures. If it can meet that challenge, Ohio voters will be voting on medical marijuana in November 2014.

Article From StoptheDrugWar.org - Creative Commons Licensing - Donate

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About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • Ganja Social

    This rights-based initiative is absolutely brilliant. It’s encouraging to see other states build off of and learn from the existing legislation in states that already have a medical marijuana framework in place. The tie-in to industrial hemp production is particularly promising (and profitable), as so many states “forget” about that. Good luck, Ohio!

  • dgand

    I like how the bill reads. I’d surly vote for it. Well done guys. Good luck Ohio!!!

  • Medmmjohio

    I wote my state representative BRIAN HILL here in Ohio….he is the rep for the 97th district….this guy doesss notttt support our freedoms!!!! Here is my letter to him & his response:
    …………………………………………………

    I’m writing to urge your support for House Joint Resolution 6, which would allow Ohioans to vote on regulating the adult consumption of marijuana.

    Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition and replacing it with regulation. The historic votes on Election Day in Colorado and Washington – where, for the first time ever, a majority of voters decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition – underscore this political reality.

    The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. Furthermore, the criminalization of cannabis simply doesn’t work.

    Despite more than 70 years of federal marijuana prohibition, Americans’ consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for state lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises and it is time for lawmakers to impose common-sense regulations governing cannabis’ personal use by adults and licensing its production. A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for limited, licensed production and sale of cannabis to adults – but restricts use among young people – best reduces the risks associated with its use or abuse.

    I encourage you to support House Joint Resolution 6 and let the Ohio voters decide if it is time to regulate marijuana.

    Scott Hill
    ………………………………………………………………………..,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    State Representative Brian Hill
    97th House District
    Dear Scott,

    Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding House Joint Resolution 6, which would put on the ballot the issue of legalizing marijuana here in Ohio. One of my favorite aspects of this job is the amount of feedback I receive when issues like this are proposed by my colleagues. Since its introduction by Representative Robert Hagan, I have heard from many on both sides of the marijuana topic.

    I have always been opposed to the legalization of marijuana, and remain that way now. For those who claim that medicinal marijuana helps to ease their pain and better certain symptoms they suffer from, there already exists on the legal market synthetic forms of marijuana. Legalizing cannabis in Ohio will only open the door to a world of problems that all stem from drug use: crime, introduction to other (more dangerous) drugs, and increased dependence to other drugs just to name a few. I realize that this legislation would leave it up to the citizens of Ohio to decide whether or not to legalize the drug. While I believe in the democratic system, I was elected and sent to Columbus to vote for the great people of the 97th House District on matters like this, no matter the polarizing effects they have on society. Should we, the General Assembly, vote the way the people don’t like, they can always put it up for a referendum vote and overturn our decision.
    I will continue to research the issue and learn everything that I can to cast an informed vote. However, with the drug problem that already exists in and around Muskingum and Guernsey counties, I don’t see at this time how legalizing marijuana use would help in any way.

    I am proud to represent you in Columbus, and my goal is to achieve those things that are best for our district, and for our state. Thank you again for taking time out of your day to write me regarding this issue.

    Have a nice day,

    Brian D. Hill
    State Representative
    97th House District

    LETS VOTE THIS GUY OUT & OTHER POLITICIANS LIKE HIM WHO DONT SUPPORT OUR FREEDOMS!!!! THANKS FOR READING!!!

  • max

    So how can we vote for this? I heard that there was a vote coming up in the next month. Is that just referring to getting signatures, or is it for getting it on the 2014 ballot? Please let us know how we can help!