The continued effort to legalize medical and recreational cannabis in Ohio has been an up hill battle.
Ohioans could vote on dueling medical marijuana measures this fall.
A group calling itself Grassroots Ohio is pushing a constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
But unlike the measure backed by national group Marijuana Policy Project, the Grassroots Ohio amendment does not establish a regulatory structure. The measure would also allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.
Nearly three-quarters of Ohioans said they support a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in a poll commissioned by Marijuana Policy Project.
Grassroots Ohio spokeswoman Cassie Young said the amendment is intentionally brief and the group plans to propose a regulatory structure in the form of a citizen-initiated statute.
“We shouldn’t be putting regulations in our constitution,” Young said. “The amendment is about protecting inherent rights of Ohioans – not enshrining business interests.”
Ohio’s marijuana activist community was sharply divided over last year’s recreational marijuana measure, Issue 3. Many pro-marijuana advocates opposed Issue 3 because it designated who would receive licenses to grow marijuana.
Some of Issue 3’s loudest opponents — including leaders of rival recreational marijuana campaign Legalize Ohio 2016 — have already backed Marijuana Policy Project’s amendment. Others banded together to form Grassroots Ohio.
Competing medical marijuana initiatives could again divide marijuana supporters and campaign resources in a year crowded with political campaign messages.
Grassroots Ohio plans to submit its language to the attorney general within the next week. Young said the group will have enough money to hire petition circulators to collect the 305,591 signatures of Ohio voters needed by July 6 to qualify for the November ballot.
But Young said Grassroots Ohio is building a long-term campaign and could wait to put the measure on the ballot in 2017 or later.
Grassroots Ohio’s one-page amendment would give adults over age 21 the “right to possess, process, transport, use, share and cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes.” The amendment does not list acceptable medicinal purposes nor require a physician’s approval to use marijuana.
The amendment would also prevent using blood or urine tests to prove impairment of a driver.
Tony Coder, assistant director of Ohio-based Drug-Free Action Alliance, said the amendment is lacking so much direction it’s almost as if it was written on the back of a napkin.
“We want to make sure that medicine is done through a thorough, safe and science-based process so that every Ohioan knows that whatever medication they might be taking, it is safe and effective,” Coder said in an email. “This amendment proposal provides no direction, no guidance and has such gaping holes that should serve as a red flag to Ohio’s citizens and communities.”
The amendment was drafted by Athens-area lawyer Don Wirtshafter. The longtime Ohio marijuana activist previously worked with the Ohio Rights Group, which put its medical marijuana amendment on hold while lobbying the legislature to act on the issue.