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Ohio Cannabis Rights amendment clears hurdle

TNS Regional News • May 24, 2013 at 2:15 PM

The Ohio Ballot Board, chaired by Secretary of State Jon Husted, on Thursday determined that a proposed constitutional amendment regarding cannabis consists of one issue.

Petitioners will now need to collect 385,253 signatures, which is equal to 10 percent of the total vote cast for governor in 2010, to place the measure on the ballot. As part of the total number of signatures needed, petitioners must also collect signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and within each of those counties, collect enough signatures equal to five percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election, 2010.

Last Friday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the petition for the proposed constitutional amendment submitted by the Ohio Rights Group dealing with the legalization of therapeutic marijuana in the state.

On May 7, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received a written petition to amend the Ohio Constitution by adding the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment. The submission was certified Friday as containing both the necessary 1,000 signatures from registered Ohio voters and a “fair and truthful” summary.

“Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred, I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed constitutional amendment,” DeWine stated in a letter to the Ohio Ballot Board.

According to the Ohio Rights Group, a regulatory model for therapeutic cannabis was designed, proposed and advanced in the first Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment, which was rejected by the Ohio Attorney General due to its length. The group says it would have established an application and permitting system for Agricultural Cooperatives, Scientific Research Laboratories (testing for purity and content), Safety Compliance and Educational Facilities (like Oaksterdam University), Infused Product Manufacturers and Medical Cannabis Retail Establishments.How soon would the regulations be established?

In information provided by the Ohio Rights Group, constitutional amendments in Ohio are required to appear on a fall ballot and go into effect 30 days after passage.

Usage is restricted to “eligible residents.” A person qualifies as an “eligible resident” by being the age of majority (at least 18 years old in Ohio), an Ohio resident and “diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition,” as defined under Section 2 (E). More conditions can be added by either the Commission or the General Assembly.

As poll numbers show Ohioans are growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of marijuana use, a Youngstown Democrat wants to give people the chance to make the drug fully legal in Ohio.

Rep. Robert F. Hagan has made a few attempts over the years to persuade his colleagues to allow for the use of medical marijuana in Ohio, and each effort has died a quiet death.

A spokesman for Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, declined to comment on the pair of proposals Hagan introduced yesterday.

One is a bill that would allow patients with certain chronic conditions such as cancer or sickle-cell anemia to use marijuana for treatment. Eighteen other states have approved similar measures.

“In addition to the studies that show marijuana to be a valuable treatment option for chronic pain, nausea and seizure disorders, I have heard countless stories of how cannabis has made a difference in the lives of people who are sick or dying,” Hagan said.

His other proposal, modeled after an amendment recently passed in Colorado, would ask voters to approve allowing people 21 or older to purchase and use marijuana. The drug could be sold only by state-licensed establishments and would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax.

“With billions upon billions spent on the war on drugs with little progress to show for it, it is time for more-sensible drug policy in this country,” Hagan said, arguing that the revenue could help restore cuts to education and local governments.

It takes a three-fifths vote for the legislature to put an issue on the ballot.

A recent Saperstein Associates poll of more than 1,000 Ohioans for The Dispatch found that legalizing medical marijuana was overwhelmingly favored, 63 percent to 37 percent, but making pot completely legal was opposed by a 21-point margin.

Martin D. Saperstein, head of the Columbus polling firm, noted that surveys in other states are finding growing acceptance of legalizing marijuana, especially if it would be regulated and taxed.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Norwalk Reflector staff and Jim Siegel of the Columbus Dispatch (MCT) contributed to this article.


By Frank Lewis - The Portsmouth Daily Times, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Portsmouth Daily Times (Portsmouth, Ohio)

Visit The Portsmouth Daily Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) at www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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