Ohio: Marijuana Policy Project Wants Medical Cannabis On November Ballot


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Marijuana Policy Project has set its sights on legalizing medicinal cannabis this November in Ohio.

Staff with MPP, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that was behind the successful recreational marijuana legalization drive in Colorado, said they can learn from ResponsibleOhio's failed $20 million campaign to legalize recreational and medicinal cannabis last fall, reports Jessie Balmert of Gannett Ohio. Nearly two-thirds of voters opposed that ballot initiative, which would have handed control of commercial cannabis cultivation to a few campaign investors.

"It's quite clear that voters do not support anything that could be perceived as a monopoly or oligopoly," MPP spokesman Mason Tvert said. Ohio voters in November also approved a proposal from lawmakers to ban monopolies in the state constitution, a response on the marijuana investors behind the ResponsibleOhio attempt to monopolize commercial cannabis cultivation in the state.

MPP didn't back or invest in ResponsibleOhio's failed campaign, but the national group didn't actively oppose it, either. Now, though, MPP seems eager to distance itself from the expensive, futile effort. MPP won't be working with ResponsibleOhio leader Ian James or his political consulting group, according to Tvert.

Ironically, MPP will be working with a group that co-managed the campaign to defeat ResponsibleOhio's attempt at marijuana legalization in 2015, Strategic Public Partners, based in Columbus.

MPP's medical marijuana proposal would allow patients with serious illnesses to buy cannabis from stores or to grow their own at home if their doctors approve it as a treatment option. Ohio would issue business licenses to grow and sell marijuana to patients with state ID cards, according to MPP's website.

The group is hiring an Ohio organizer for its campaign to quality for the ballot pass a constitutional amendment on medical marijuana this November.

Ninety percent of Ohio voters support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, according to an October 2015 poll. A significantly smaller number, 53 percent, support recreational legalization.

Meanwhile, Senators Dave Burke (R-Marysville) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) are hosting a series of town hall forums on medical marijuana across the state, starting in Cleveland on Jan. 30.

"It's great that the Legislature is looking into the issue, but seriously ill and dying people don't have time to wait for them to take action," Tvert said.

A locally based group, Ohioans to End Prohibition, is also planning to collect signatures for a recreational marijuana ballot initiative.