For every high-profile marijuana campaign across the country, there are quieter efforts to make pot available to those who need it.
One of those is underway in Ohio, where weed advocates are pushing for medical cannabis and legal industrial hemp. Supporters want to put the proposal, called the Cannabis Rights Amendment, on the November 2014 ballot.
“There’s that saying, ‘As goes Ohio, so goes the nation,” said Cheryl Shuman, a national advocate who is helping the Ohio Rights Group, the organization behind the ballot effort.
The push started early this year, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the proposal for the ballot in May. Now volunteers are gathering signatures; they need more than 385,000 by July 3, 2014.
It’s unclear what chances the campaign have. Medical marijuana is widely supported across the United States, and polls in Ohio have shown support topping 60 and even 70 percent.
In fact, this would be at least the third medical marijuana law in the state. Ohio lawmakers have twice enacted short-lived defense statutes that allowed patients to plead medical necessity when charged with marijuana crimes.
Rep. Bob Hagan, a Democrat, has also introduced a bill in the Legislature to legalize medical pot. But the legislation doesn’t stand much chance, as both the state Senate and House of Representatives are dominated by conservative Republicans. Gov. John Kasich, who would have to sign the bill if it passed, is also a Republican and is adamantly opposed to all things marijuana.
Indeed, the only chance for reform, at least until the next Legislature is seated in 2015, is at the ballot box.
If Ohio voters approve medical weed, they would join 20 other states and the District of Columbia. Voters in two of those states, Washington and Colorado, approved full legalization in last year’s election, and retail pot shops are expected to open in both next year.
Ohio’s move toward legal medicinal pot has taken a back seat to progress in other states, in part because of its political makeup and the uncertainty of success in the near future.
Other states where medical marijuana is under consideration – but not much talked about – include Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New York. Success is unlikely in any of those places.
Medical marijuana legalization in Minnesota looks bleak, as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has vowed to veto any bill from the left-leaning Legislature that legalizes medicinal pot unless law enforcement groups endorse it – a political impossibility.
Pennsylvania’s push for medical marijuana has also hit a road block, as Republican lawmakers won’t pass a bill allowing only marijuana extract with so little THC it couldn’t make a patient high. The New York House of Representatives has passed medical pot legislation, but the Senate won’t act on it until next year, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has said he’s opposed to it.