Ohio Ballot Campaign to Legalize Medical Marijuana Gets Underway

Ohio Ballot Campaign to Legalize Medical Marijuana Gets Underway

COLUMBUS, OH — 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. The Ohio Rights Group, 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, 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 3, 2014 to hand in signatures. If it can meet that challenge, Ohio voters will be voting on medical marijuana in November 2014.

  • woodlandwilly

    This is only a “gateway” drug to far more dangerous and lethal drugs. Visit an emergency room, morgue, ride with a medic crew or police crew someday and see how well drugs destroy human lives. Especially those who made the wrong decision to try and “can’t” shake the monster….What a really dumb idea….

    • Chris Mitchell

      Said nobody intelligent ever.

    • billbobmtb

      I totally agree … gateway drug … just like alcohol and tobacco and caffeine … we should prohibit those as well !
      My mother’s milk was my gateway drug … once I had that I moved onto Gerber, then other horrible things.

      • mamaw 59

        LOL . . I love it! You are so right . . . how ignorant people can be! I never read that cannabis is the result of deaths anywhere. Coming from a family of alcoholics I can say that it is a far more dangerous drug. It influences killings, car accidents, domestic violence, blackouts and many years of recovery for the abused ( adult children of alcoholics ). THAT is what needs to be against the law! One brother died at 30 over alcohol, the only other is on his way, via liver damage. Disabled at 60 because of years of hard factory work, I would welcome the pain medication! Where do u go at my age to look for it?

        • Michele From Ohio

          ” Where do u go at my age to look for it?”

          mawmaw, I understand gardening is a fun and relaxing hobby…. ;)

        • Marie Noybn

          do you honestly believe that drs will have any freer hand with the medical MJ scripts than they do with any other pain medicine? Morphine is legal.. so is fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, etc… but im sure you’ve had about the same luck with getting docs to prescribe an amount that actually takes away or greatly reduces the pain as I have (although since you are older you may have better luck than I, though by the sounds of it, no such luck.. the irony is people who need it less seem to get more…if marijuana truly is a miracle pain drug (which, im not convinced of, most people in real pain who I know use it say its mostly about nausea in the chemo/radiation group… they get nice oxy or fentanyl for the actual pain part) then to get any real relief what we need is legalized marijuana… period.. not medical. with legal growing, so someone in pain doesn’t have to be extorted by the pharma industry to get their pain relieved. Unfortunately its a fact that MJ IS addictive to many (not all) and for those people it is a drive killer, and they lay about doped up all their lives and never accomplish anything.. much like alcoholics do. To those who say that then we need to Illegalize alcohol… I say Hypocrite. I will tell you why one is illegal and the other is not… its too hard to tax legalized weed. Too easy to grow it in your basement/backyard, etc Alcohol is harder to make if you want anything resembling good booze. Though I also believe that a much greater proportion of casual alcohol drinkers exist to boozers vs casual weed users to stoners. Also, to the one who says you should be able to drive after smoking weed.. no. No more than you should drink and drive. If there is a way to measure a safe level in the blood stream like there is with drinking then yes, but if there isn’t.. no.

          • Tyler Tramontana

            can you cite one credible source that says marijuana is addictive?

          • Marie Noybn



            here, have three. one government, one business, one private. And that’s just the first search page. Come on now, lets be realistic. Anything you do on a regular basis can become addictive, or rather habit forming, and regular use of marijuana, if you know ANYONE who does it regularly, can produce withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. And above and beyond chemical addiction, just the natural feelings the drug gives you makes you want to do it more, and people with addictive personalities (you know people like that, everyone does, they try something, next thing you know they gotta do it constantly… whether its cigarettes, booze, drugs, or even tv, though tv does not have a chemical component). hey im not knocking it, if you are disabled and cant work, have no one to take care of that relies on you and want to lay around baked all the time, more power to ya, but you shouldn’t delude yourself that everyone can do whatever drug they like and still function. many can, yes, but not all. And anyone who does it while they are pregnant or have a small child that relies on them, or anyone who smokes it around a child… under the jail.

          • sorryurwrong

            President Obama smoked weed and got of the couch and became president, Michael Phelps smoked weed then woon more Olympic medals than any one else in history, thousands of pot smokers are standing up for what’s right and putting together these ballot measures to make life better for others. No sir not all pot smokers sit on the couch all doped up. And ass for your argument on taxing marijuana you could not be more wrong. Quality marijuana is much harder to grow than brewing a good beer. Lastly and most importantlypeople die eevery day from the poisons the pharmacutical companiespush on ppeople. Even over the counter drugs like Tylenol. No one had ever died from marijuana.

      • B Alan Heisler

        …and once it’s all illegal, we’ll build the largest criminal empire ever: From Gerber to wine, we’ll be worth billions.

    • Yah Bish

      I’m sorry woodlandwilly but you must be one of the most heavily fluoridated folks to ever post on any forum. Putting marijuana on an illegal market inherently places it with everything else illegal. Legalization is right around the corner so you might as well wake up and smell the reefer.

  • Michael1757

    Hey woodywilly,It is NOT a gateway drug.It’s as much a gateway drug,as much as taking the Ohio Turnpike to washington State. Does drinking lead to beating your wife? I thought so.Get your head outta the sand & enjoy the land of the living. Medical Marijuana is what I need,instead now I buy it off the street.I risk a 100.00 fine,but that’s a 100.00 dollar’s I don’t have.I use it on pain medication.Oh,I’m also bi-polar.

  • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

    People who use marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

    Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make us out to be. We are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

    The President of The United States himself has confessed to his regular marijuana use during his college years, as has a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

    I am an educated 40 year old professional, and I am blessed with a wonderful family and life, and I’ve worked real hard for everything I have, but that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

    To these people any use equates to abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes and glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

    There is nothing worse about smoking a joint after a long hard day than having a glass a wine.

    So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to me that I can’t enjoy marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of my own home?

    I’ve worked hard my whole life to provide for my loved ones. I don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will/morals upon us all.

    Has a marijuana user ever tried to FORCE you to use it? Probably not… So nobody has the right to force us not to…

  • Michele From Ohio

    I heard this AM on the radio that DeWine rejected the bill due to ‘wording’. This is the phrase that is no doubt causing all the problems: “free of discrimination and interference from the state of Ohio”.


  • andrew

    when and where do we sign?

  • Rex Robbie

    make it legal so cops can do some real police work

  • michelle

    Anyone else seeing the comedy in the fact the spokes persons name Is Mary Jane? Lmao

  • lilly

    I cant wait to vote never had. I would love to vote to make pot legal.

  • derek

    It shows down cancer cells. You might end up in the emergency room but it’s not because of the mary Jane. It’s because of the decisions you made while on it. I really how this gets on the ballot. You can’t get to sleep? Smoke the Jane. Have pains? Hit the bong a couple times. Stressed out? Forget about it and roll up a fatty.

  • Cody

    Some of guys r stupid as hell ur really comparing pot to alcolism n tabbacco n Rx drugs wow u need knocked the fuck out weed has nothing addictive in it plus weed don’t kill ur liver,have addictive additives,make u wanna kill ppl,give u withdraw,pretty sure there’s no AA for pot also don’t cause cancer actually helps prevent rumors n cancers,u don’t have to take chantix to quit weed which has a thousand side effectsv I just got a job that random severe month n I haven’t smoked in a month so my back pain,anxiety,depression,n temper is pretty bad now but I’m not in rehab or going through withdraw for it n rx drugs ya I have a friend that is totally fucked up on Vic’s n can’t stop he spends 300$ a week on Vic’s that’s addiction pretty sure I don’t feel that way bout buds ppl they don’t want it legalized are ppl that have never done it b4 n the whole b.s on causing probs in the work place is an excuse not to legalize u kno how many ppl r prolly high on the job?? 80percent of all pot heads keep jobs longer then ppl that don’t smoke it so maybe the ones that don’t smoke should b fired very funny to how many cops r on horrible shit like crack n go to Quonset hut to buy fake piss but they’re worried bout us smokin weed really??!! U want a better happier economy with less debt n shootings n robberies legalize the shit I’ve had complements at jobs for being such a hard worker in the past while I was high but got screwed frm randoms when I did great at the job n was there everyday u can’t legalize weed make alcohol,tabbacco,pain killers,soda,n fat foods illegal then when I’m drunk I can’t hardly walk or see straight but when I’m high I can go workout,wrk at my job harder,be in a happy mood,no back pain,I can do anything high so if ur hater for legalization of the buds screw u n LEGALIZE it!!!!

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