Ohio: Four Proposals to Legalize Cannabis Take Root

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There are four proposals in Ohio to either legalize medicinal cannabis or decriminalize altogether

By Michael Bachara, Hemp News Correspondent

Earlier this month, Ohio State Rep. Bob Hagan (D), introduced two bills in the state legislature. The first, HB 153, would legalize cannabis for medicinal use by those with qualifying conditions. The second, HJR 6, would have the legislature put full decriminalization of cannabis on the ballot for Ohio voters.

“We need to admit that we’ve lost the war on drugs. By taxing the sale of marijuana at a reasonable rate, revenue can be used to implement programs that target more harmful drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. We could be making money to hire more police and fire, pull up our education system, put more money toward local government funding," Hagen explained.

Hagen added, "I've watched a lot of people come through my office suffering with maladies that regular prescriptions just didn't help. They asked me to do it, I said fine. It's the second time I've introduced it and it flies in the face of the pharmaceutical industry, but those who asked me to do it really need it because they've tried everything else."

In addition to the legislative bills, a group of grassroots activists in Ohio is also working to get an amendment on the ballot that would change the state constitution and legalize medicinal cannabis and restore industrial hemp.

The Ohio Rights Group (ORG) has submitted the language of the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to ensure the rights of Ohioans to the use of therapeutic cannabis and re-introduce the production of hemp, to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Once approved, the group will have to gather at least 375,000 valid signatures from Ohio voters to get the amendment on the ballot for 2014.

According to Athens County attorney Don E. Wirtshafter, who serves as general counsel for the Ohio Rights Group, “It will take the work of everyone who cares about this issue to get it on the ballot.”

"We are looking to get the amendment on the November 2014 ballot, which means the signatures must be submitted to the state by July 2014," Wirtshafter proclaimed.

Legalizing medicinal marijuana and hemp cultivation has the potential to “alleviate the suffering of over 100,000 Ohioans, provide Ohio with an estimated $50 million in tax revenue within five years of implementation and create an Ohio industry and the jobs to go along with it estimated at $250 million annually within just two years of establishment,” according to the Ohio Rights Group’s website.

The proposed amendment would also allow Ohio farmers the right to cultivate hemp for thousands of uses from paper to fuel.

The fourth and final proposal, the Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment, according to petitioner Tonya Davis, is not as strict as the Ohio Medical Compassion Act or HB 153 and would still provide those that are too sick to move to a medical cannabis state access to their medicine.

"We are coming at the medical cannabis issue at all corners and at some point our legislators will have to decide. Do they want any control over a medical cannabis program? Ohioans are ready to take this to the voters," Davis told Hemp News.

Whichever proposal you support, please aid the effort in Ohio to end cannabis prohibition.

Sources: Hagan introduces two marijuana legalization bills

Three separate measures on the table to legalize marijuana in Ohio