Cannabis amendment a possibility for Ohio

On a single day in October, Miami-Dade police raided 13 marijuana grow houses, seizing 586 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $2 million. Police arrested 11 people — all Cubans, said Lt. Jose Gonzalez of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s narcotics unit. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Katie Nix

The race is on for the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment to make it onto the ballot for 2015.

With more than two months left until the July 1 filing deadline, the Ohio Rights Group has to get almost 200,000 more signatures before the proposed constitutional amendment, which would legalize medicinal marijuana.

“Our signatures are evergreen, so every one that we’ve gotten so far is still good,” Ohio Rights Group president John Pardee said. “We have a gross number of about 150,000, but they still need verified and to be made sure that the signatures belong to registered voters. Our goal is the November ballot so we’re going to have to push even harder than we have before.”

The Ohio Rights Group attempted to get the amendment on the ballot in 2014 but was unable to make the deadline. Other groups, such as ResponsibleOhio, are also trying to get legislation on the ballot.

“We’ve always told the patients who support use that we want to get this on the ballot as soon as possible,” Pardee said. “They’re who really matters during all of this.”

All About the Patients

Pardee said the amendment focuses exclusively on therapeutic cannabis, or marijuana, and industrial hemp. Recreational use is not included.

“We didn’t want to get into the recreational aspect of it, even though most people in our group support recreational use. We felt the people being hurt most by prohibition were the patients because anyone in Ohio who wants to get access to recreational cannabis now,” Pardee said. “Have access to it and so people really truly being hurt by cannabis prohibition are patients who cannot get it so we wanted to take the patients off the battlefield of the drug war, and that was our main focus.”

Pardee said the basis for the amendment is the rights of cancer patients, epilepsy patients and Parkinson’s disease patients.

“Through prohibition, patients’ rights have been taken away — their right to safe access, your right to not lose your job, right to maintain custody of your children, property rights, health care choice,” Pardee said. “All of these rights have been lost, so we felt it was important to try and reclaim and reestablish those rights that were actually granted to us by our forefathers in the state of Ohio. The Ohio state constitution preamble numerates our rights to life, liberty, happiness, health, safety and property. All of those rights are infringed by prohibition. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

Different Options

Pardee said the citizen initiative petition is not the only way for the amendment to go into effect. The Ohio General Assembly could also pass the amendment with a super majority.

While there is a possibility the amendment could be passed by the General Assembly, there are mixed opinions on the issue across the aisle.

Ohio Republican Senator John Eklund said he disagreed with the legalization of medicinal marijuana for a variety of reasons.

“Marijuana remains a controlled substance as far as the federal government is concerned, and it’s a federal crime to transport, possess it, use it, all that stuff, and the only reason things are going the way they are in Colorado and whatever other states have entertained this idea is because the federal government has decided to not enforce their laws,” Eklund said.

Eklund also said he believed marijuana to be a gateway drug and that there were other options available to medical patients.

“I would rather consider the possibility of pursuing those options, and for all I know, they already may be legal and appropriate, and if they’re not, I would much rather be pursuing those possible options thank cracking the door to the ultimate legalization of marijuana in Ohio,” Eklund said.

However, Pardee said the other medical options could be habit forming and dangerous.

Mixed Reactions from Ohio Students

College students across Ohio also have mixed reactions to the idea of marijuana legalization in Ohio.

“I believe that it’d allow younger children have better access to it,” The Ohio State University linguistics sophomore Danielle Arnold said. “I don’t like the way that most people act when high and how their reflexes are slower. I also don’t like the smell of it, and I don’t want to be subjected to it every time I walk out in the streets.”

Arnold also said that while she understands the amendment is for medicinal purposes only, it would later evolve into recreational use.

However, other students disagree.

Kent State junior international relations student Nick Schmucker said he agrees with the legalization of marijuana due to the fact that it could have good benefits, including in the field of medicine.

“I think it would be beneficial in bringing in money and the police could focus on worse issues than someone smoking a joint,” freshman chemistry major Brianna Brocious said. “Having it illegal does more harm than good.”

Contact Katie Nix at [email protected]