While both chambers of the Ohio legislature prepare to embark on separate fact-finding missions in order to evaluate the benefits and risks of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a national cannabis advocacy group based in the District of Columbia, hopes to take the fate of legal weed out of the hands of lawmakers and put the question of medical use up to the voters in November’s general election.
Similar to what they have managed to achieve in states like Arizona and Michigan, the MPP will soon launch an initiative aimed at establishing a somewhat restrictive medical marijuana program throughout the state of Ohio. The proposal would give patients suffering from “serious medical conditions,” including cancer and Crohn’s disease, access to cannabis that they would be able to purchase though state licensed dispensaries. It would also give patients the freedom to engage in home cultivation.
“We are committed to working with local patients, advocates and professionals to pass a well-written initiative that ensures seriously ill Ohioans are able to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” Mason Tvert, director of communication at the Marijuana Policy Project, told HIGH TIMES in an emailed statement.
The 2016 campaign, which will be formally handled by the newly created “Ohionans for Medical Marijuana,” is in response to last year’s failed “Issue 3,” an effort put forth by the recently dismantled ResponsibleOhio, which attempted to end statewide prohibition by establishing a cartel-like monopoly that would have prevented any chance of a free market cannabis trade. It was after a great deal of mostly negative media attention that Ohio voters ultimately decided to run ResponsibleOhio out on a rail, showing big marijuana that not even a $20 million campaign could compete with the Midwestern farming community.
Although the polls regarding ResponsibleOhio’s mission showed that voters were somewhat conflicted over whether to support Issue 3, there was no mistaking that the majority of the population was all for legalization. A WKYC and Kent University poll revealed that 56 percent of the state’s voters wanted to legalize recreational and medical marijuana, while 32 percent opposed and another 10 percent remained uncertain.
Interestingly, as soon as the results of last year’s election were set in stone, the Marijuana Policy Project cryptically suggested that the organization might be eyeballing the Midwest to push a new initiative.
“It’s pretty obvious that the outcome in Ohio does not reflect where the nation stands on the direction in which it is heading when it comes to marijuana policy,” Tvert said last November. “It only reflects where Ohio voters stand on a specific and rather unique proposal in an off-election year. It will not have any bearing on the outcomes of the initiative that we expect to appear on other states’ ballot in 2016.”
The MPP’s master plan to bring medical marijuana to Ohio has not been officially announced.
This information was initially discovered through a job posting that went up on their website last night seeking an “Ohio organizer” to work in Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati. According to the post, the position will be active February through November 2016, paying a salary of $5,000 per month.
“We are in the very initial stages of this process—filing a committee, starting to build a campaign team, and conducting outreach to potential coalition partners and donors,” Tvert said. “We are looking forward to working with our allies in Ohio to produce the most effective and responsible medical marijuana system possible.”
This development almost inevitably ensures that 2016 will be another interesting year in the realm of Ohio’s pot politics. Not only will the MPP fight to put a medical marijuana initiative in front of voters, but another group called “Ohioans to End Prohibition” (Legalize Ohio) is also working to legalize a fully recreational market in the same manner. Reports show this organization has so far collected 80,000 of the more than 300,000 signatures needed to earn a spot on the ballot, but the real question is do they have the financial resources to see their proposal to fruition.
One thing is certain—the MPP will have no trouble securing the funds needed to gain a strong position in this race.
There is also a distinct possibility that news of the MPP’s efforts will spook the Ohio legislature to the point of getting serious about drafting legislation ahead of the November election. At this point, the House has created a medical marijuana task force to weigh out the pros and cons of legalization, while several senators recently announced that they will travel the state to “listen to the nurses…the doctors…the patients” in hopes of determining the best course of action for the development of a medical marijuana bill.
(Photo Courtesy of WCPO.com)