Marijuana is legal for medical use in Ohio, but it is not legal for recreational use. In 2016, Ohio lawmakers passed a bill that legalized medical marijuana for patients with qualifying medical conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Under the law, patients can obtain medical marijuana with a recommendation from a qualified physician and a state-issued medical marijuana card. However, possession of marijuana for recreational use remains illegal in Ohio, and those found in violation of the law can face criminal charges and penalties. It’s also important to note that there are still restrictions on where and when medical marijuana can be consumed, and driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.
If passed, it would be one of the first states to do so nationwide since 1996, when California became the first state to pass medical cannabis legislation.
In recent years, more Americans than ever before have become interested in the subject of legalizing marijuana — specifically for recreational purposes rather than strictly medicinal ones.
And that interest is finally beginning to translate into political action, with several states deciding this year that weed should no longer remain illegal on their soil.
On Nov. 6th, 2012, residents in Ohio will get an opportunity to vote yes or no on ballot measure seven against decriminalization. However, even though many people think it’s time we start talking about something other than how much better Colorado looks now that dispensaries exist there, the fact remains that marijuana remains federally illegal despite all sorts of loopholes.
Suppose you’re caught using any amount of marijuana (even just a few seeds) without having a prescription from a doctor. In that case, you’ll face only a civil penalty instead of being arrested. So while your ticket may look fine after paying a $150 court fee, you could still spend days behind bars waiting to see what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder decides next.
So, where does that leave us as far as local laws go? What exactly happens once such a law passes? Is it possible for cities and towns across America to begin enacting similar policies? Read on to find out.
Since laws keep changing rapidly, making things a bit confusing sometimes, check out our friends at DISA to see a complete map of every state. They have information on what is legal, medical use, recreational use, and everything else.
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Drug Laws (NORML), “Marijuana prohibition costs American taxpayers approximately $5 billion per year.” We spend millions each year enforcing a failed policy that produces little benefit aside from ruining lives, wasting police resources, and creating a black market.
Yet, somehow we can’t seem to make ends meet by actually fixing the problem. Meanwhile, drug-related arrests account for nearly half of those booked into jail daily in the United States. While the federal government continues its ridiculous stance on pot, countless families continue suffering under these circumstances.
If you live in Ohio, the chances are good that you’ve either directly witnessed someone affected by the current harsh penalties associated with marijuana usage or know somebody who knows someone who did. You might also remember seeing news footage of teens smoking joints during high school proms in the 1970s.
Or maybe you were part of that group. Regardless, you probably agree that today’s approach isn’t working and that lawmakers must take another hard look at this issue.
While the question seems simple enough, determining what kind of bill to put forward requires considering multiple factors. Here’s a brief overview of a few key points surrounding the topic.
What’s At Stake For Ohioans
Decriminalizing marijuana possession makes sense because many people smoke it without facing legal consequences, but criminalizing production doesn’t serve anyone well. That said, marijuana is relatively harmless compared to alcohol regarding overall health risks. According to NORML, “[T]here is absolutely no reason marijuana users should suffer greater public scorn and punishment than alcohol abusers.
Both substances affect brain chemistry differently, resulting in social stigma and official discrimination.” Also worth noting is that marijuana contains fewer harmful carcinogens than tobacco products. By contrast, alcohol kills tens of thousands annually around the world.
A study conducted by economists at Columbia University found that removing marijuana convictions from arrest records did not affect employment rates. In addition, they concluded that employers aren’t likely to discriminate based on prior offenses unless convicted felons apply for jobs within the particular company.
Numerous studies show that marijuana is potentially beneficial for treating pain due to arthritis and cancer. In addition, a review published in 2011 showed significant evidence supporting the potential use of cannabinoids in managing various forms of epilepsy.
Another report from 2010 stated that cannabidiol — one of the main components of marijuana responsible for the effects – acts as an effective anti-seizure medication.
Despite all this research, marijuana reform advocates argue that treating marijuana smokers worse than drinkers is unconstitutional. Last week, former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning testified before Congress regarding his own experience with marijuana and made headlines worldwide for saying he thinks the plant shouldn’t be treated like alcohol or cigarettes.
It’s evident that marijuana offers benefits compared to other drugs, but how big of a factor will it play in the decision-making process for Ohio residents? Keep reading to find out.
How The Ballot Measure Was Written
As mentioned earlier, the wording of a proposed ballot initiative must cover all aspects of an issue thoroughly to ensure maximum voter turnout. As you can imagine, writing a comprehensive piece about a highly complex issue presents unique challenges that often require outside expertise.
Luckily, the folks at Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM) worked closely with attorneys and writers throughout the entire drafting phase to produce an excellent proposal. But, unfortunately, SAM didn’t win enough support among pro-pot activists to qualify for matching funds donated by prominent donors.
Instead, the organization decided to donate money toward future campaigns and hope that supporters would eventually chip in themselves later on down the road.
That leaves Ohio Cannabis Rights Initiative (OCRI) as the sole contender in this race. OCRI hired professional lobbyists to craft a clear message and create a brief title and summary section to attract the attention of passersby.
Then they enlisted expert copywriters to work hand-in-hand with them to develop a solid argumentative statement that clearly outlines the reasons why marijuana ought to be legalized. Finally, they recruited a team of volunteers to help assemble petitions and collect signatures required to place the ballot measure on the November election ballot. The creators say they spent roughly $90,000 on the campaign alone.
When crafting the actual text, the campaigners relied heavily on input and guidance from experts, including Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the nonprofit International Centre for Science Against Prohibition (ICSAFP); David Bier, cofounder of Sam4Cannabis; Frank McAndrew, president of Global Exchange; and Robert Capello, founder of Greenleaf Pharms.
They created a document full of facts and figures demonstrating the absurdities of the current system and outlining specific ways marijuana enforcement wastes tax dollars and hurts innocent citizens.
Who Supports It? Who Opposes It?
Although hundreds of organizations favored the proposition, groups opposed to the initiative outnumbered proponents almost 2-to-1. Those against it included Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD), and the Center For Alcoholism & Related Conditions Prevention Foundation (CARAF).
Many others argued that marijuana poses a significant societal risk and needs stricter regulation. But on the other hand, some critics felt that the initiative wasn’t specific enough to describe how cannabis businesses should operate. Others thought the language used was too vague. Still more worried that minors would try their luck buying product off the street.
Many organizations supported the idea of decriminalization but expressed concern over broadening the definition of a misdemeanor to include mere possession. One notable exception was MADD, whose spokesman Tim McGinty told CNN that while the group supports decriminalization, it opposes the passage of Proposition 19 because it wants stricter regulations on commercial sales. He believes that allowing private companies to sell marijuana increases abuse among consumers.
However, opponents weren’t the only ones throwing punches. Supporters aimed arguments surrounding taxation, labeling the initiative as “government revenue enhancement” rather than “tax relief,” claiming that collected taxes wouldn’t necessarily solve the real problems plaguing the industry.
Other criticisms revolved around safety concerns and the possibility of children obtaining access to the substance. Proponents countered by arguing that, unlike alcohol, marijuana doesn’t pose a threat to youth development and doesn’t encourage reckless behavior.
Lastly, they pointed out that marijuana provides a safer alternative to alcohol consumption, given the number of deaths tied to alcohol each year.
Now that we’ve reviewed all sides of the debate, let’s discuss what comes next.
What Are The Next Steps?
Once the results come in, you won’t have long to wait until you hear about the outcome! After all, the deadline to submit completed petition papers are set for Aug. 9th. Once ballots are printed, voting stations will open up early on Election Day morning.
The final count begins immediately afterward. Although the exact numbers aren’t known, it’s estimated that passing the measure requires 50 percent of the total votes cast.
Afterward, things aren’t quite finished. Activists will then have to turn their focus on getting the legislature involved. Only then will the actual test begin. Will lawmakers listen to common sense and realize that marijuana prohibition is outdated?
Or will they ignore the mounting pressure from constituents and keep doing whatever feels right to them regardless of opinion polls? Either way, we’ll soon find out.
To learn more about the upcoming vote, check out the links on the following page.
For decades, scientists have debated the relative harmlessness of marijuana versus harder drugs like heroin and crack cocaine. But according to a 2007 study published in Addiction Biology, addiction is very different from tolerance.
Tolerance merely refers to needing increasingly higher doses to achieve the same desired response.