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Ohio Initiative Campaign for Medical Marijuana is Underway [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #794)
Politics & Advocacy

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.

Willie Nelson endorses the OCRA in Cincinnati, July 19 (Cincinnati Teapot Party)
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 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.

For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit]

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Paul Pot (not verified)

It is medical marijuana that is responsible for pushing reform around the country resulting in Colorado and Washington Legalizing and it will be medical marijuana that breaks the Federal strangle hold on prohibition. 

The feds have been able to ignore a majority of the people on this issue but when a majority of states have laws that reflect the peoples wishes, it will be very hard for the feds to maintain their zero tolerance stance. 

And it may be by the next presidential election that we see 26 states with medical marijuana. 

Support medical marijuana. 

Wed, 07/31/2013 - 11:46pm Permalink
Shalom Smith (not verified)

How could I become apart of this movement and also become a marijuana scientist

Tue, 10/22/2013 - 6:16pm Permalink
joseph979867676878 (not verified)

I think there reason it keeps failing is cuz its for medical use, I personally would not sign for medical use only but to fully legalize it i would sign 10x over

Sun, 11/03/2013 - 10:55am Permalink
Kline (not verified)

This is most likely a FAKE site, where's the large flashing link to the ballot petition ? every time a site with OHIO medical marijuana does not have the petition FRONT AND CENTER you are wasting peoples time and pissing me off.

Wed, 11/06/2013 - 10:43pm Permalink
Kline (not verified)

DO NOT send these people ANY money this is the most half assed lobbying attempt I have ever seen, this site is an embarrasment to my intelligence.

Wed, 11/06/2013 - 10:48pm Permalink
Patience Goins (not verified)

well my opinion on medical use is ok but just think about all the benefits marijuana would make for our state. we are going through a recession and it could bring us out of this and we have the highest time of unemployment ever and with this plant being legalized for more than just medical could do so much good. I have been diagnosed with multiple disorders since the age of 12 and it was the only way i could coupe even being on medication because of the side effects and more depicted as worse than helpful. I have never heard of any deaths on marijuana and if there was it had multiple reasons for the cause. I know some elderly that has so many different life threating diseases and disorders and it is the only thing to help ease their pain. Like also our president has said in not so many words, this is the life some know and can make means to live and when they get caught for this plant god put in the ground what our decleration of independents wrote on hemp marijuana cannabis it has multiply helpful great uses and people only go on the what ifs of it such as their children well if you properly inform your children on the right reasons of its use maybe they wouldnt use this as a drug and even if they did  where they gonna go your fridge i mean really how many teens you hear about that by time they are in their mid 20's that have liver problems and what about these children overdosing on pills made by the government and they think that the marijuana is so horrible. you have more deaths to the government approved things than the ones that illegal and for biased reasons!

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 1:55am Permalink

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