Groups Collect Signatures for Legal Marijuana

Katherine Kingma

ResponsibleOhio, a large and well-funded group pushing for the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Ohio, listed the city of Lorain as one of 10 suggested growing locations around the state in ballot language released this past Monday.

The group is one of many marijuana legalization organizations in Ohio. However, proposals regarding what weed legalization should look like vary, with many organizations raising questions about who should be able to grow, sell or use and for what reasons.

Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis supports legalizing marijuana for all adults, and representative Tonya Davis emphasized the personal, rather than financial, benefit to legalization.

“Right now, marijuana is all about money,” said Davis. “But it needs to be about people. People are hurting because they can’t legally get access to marijuana, and we need to change that. We need to work together.”

However, before anyone benefits from marijuana legalization, any proposed measure must first go through the same lengthy legislative process. First, 1,000 signatures must be collected that support the ballot measure. The wording of the petition must then be approved by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine before it is sent to the Ballot Board Review. Once the ballot has passed through the board, proponents finally have the opportunity to collect the 305,000 signatures needed to get it on voters’ ballots this November.

Even considering all of their separate efforts, most prominent groups are still caught in the first couple of steps on the path to legalization — the initial ballot approval.

ResponsibleOhio is among several groups in the final signature collecting process.

In addition to listing possible growing locations, ResponsibleOhio is running on the platform that this “new open market” will “create new businesses and thousands of jobs,” according to their website. Their initiative calls for a more highly regulated marijuana market, in comparison to many other proposals which would allow more people to grow.

Under their initiative, marijuana would be grown in 10 select facilities, then tested for potency and finally distributed to not-for-profit medical dispensaries and about 1,100 retail stores.

ResponsibleOhio has been criticized by other marijuana legalization groups for promoting a money-driven initiative that is more beneficial to marijuana retailers than other proposals that would allow more freedom in growth and distribution.

John Pardee, president of the Ohio Rights Group, also understands that finances are an underlying current in the fight for marijuana legalization.

“We need to move forward, and right now it’s the lack of funding that’s holding us back,” he said.

Currently, the Ohio Rights Group’s medical marijuana petition is one of the marijuana-related petitions that is closest to approval.

John and his wife Linda Pardee, who is also the Oberlin College program coordinator for Comparative American Studies, Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies and Rhetoric and Composition, began fighting for the legalization of medical marijuana, as well as the right for farmers to grow industrial hemp, after their son, Jason Pardee, began experiencing chronic pain after a serious car accident.

The Ohio Rights Group’s early efforts to build support began in Oberlin.

“We had a meeting right here in Rice Hall, and the first batch of signatures that needed to be collected were right here on Main Street in Oberlin,” said John. “We were sitting in Subway or something, and Linda just came and started pulling people off the street.”

Their working ballot proposal has around 150,000 signatures — half of the 305,000 needed to get their proposed amendment on the ballot.

The group has been working toward getting its current number of signatures since May 2013. Although John claimed there was renewed interest in the topic, they still face problems with funding for their initiative.

Groups that support recreational use, like ResponsibleOhio, may have the funding but are still early in the campaigning process.