Marijuana reform was a big winner this week in the U.S. as voters were receptive to legalization laws of the substance. Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia approved ballot initiatives that ranged from retail selling of the drug to decriminalization for possession. A medical marijuana bill failed in Florida despite 58% of the electorate voting for its passage. In Florida, 60% of the popular vote is needed for a change of a law making the threshold a steep hill to climb for a movement as progressive as pot reform. With the positive results at the polls, Ohio advocates for medicinal marijuana want to capitalize on the growing momentum seen in other states and believe that our state can lead the charge in legalization in the Midwest.
I spoke with John Pardee of the Ohio Rights Group this afternoon and he quickly pointed to a Quinnipiac poll conducted in Ohio that showed 87% of respondents favored legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Pardee said he was, “Extremely encouraged,” by the poll results in the midterm elections across the country. He added that he believes that the state of Ohio could be a leader in the region on medical marijuana reform. That will have to be done at the ballot box or by our elected officials who write the laws. A glimmer of hope for proponents of the movement for marijuana reform in Ohio showed up in this years gubernatorial campaign. For the first time in history, a candidate from a major political party called for changing marijuana laws. Democrat Ed Fitzgerald, who lost to incumbent John Kasich, told the Cincinnati Enquirer in September:
“There are people that are suffering from conditions that medical marijuana can alleviate, especially those chronic pain types of conditions. I just think it would show a real lack of compassion if we would continue to deny them that access.”
Anita Rios, who represented the Green Party in race for Ohio Governor, supported legalization of marijuana for recreational, medical, and industrial purposes. Republican John Kasich, who was victorious on Tuesday, was the only candidate on the Ohio ballot for Governor who has remained steadfast in keeping marijuana illegal.
Kasich is widely rumored to be seeking a run for the White House and his stance may make it difficult for legislation to get through with his GOP-backed Ohio House and Senate.
Pardee, however, believes that the electorate should petition their elected officials if they want to reform to happen.
“Politicians don’t lead, the electorate does,” Pardee told me over the phone.
He added that he feels that Ohio has many pathways to legalization of marijuana. The Ohio Rights Group has an organized coalition of supporters who back reform throughout the state. Pardee says reform laws are ready to go on the ballot in the next year or two providing that money can be raised for support of the action. The Ohio Rights Group had been working on getting an amendment on marijuana on the ballot this year but failed to deliver the needed 385,247 valid signatures by the deadline of July 2, 2014.
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