Even as the fight for medical marijuana rights heats up on the west coast in the wake of President Obama’s attack on California cannabis and the resulting lawsuits, activists in other states are still committing themselves to the cause of marijuana reform. While one cannot deny that the government’s actions have had a chilling effect on a number of medical marijuana programs, particularly in places like New Jersey and Washington DC where medical cannabis is still in its infant stages, efforts to put marijuana legalization and medical marijuana measures on the 2012 ballot are continuing to build momentum. Most recently, citizens in Ohio and Missouri have made progress in advancing such marijuana reform initiatives in their states.
On Monday, the Missouri Secretary of State gave final approval of the wording for the initiative petitions that seek to fully legalize marijuana in the state. The measures would make marijuana legal for anyone over 21, create a Missouri medical marijuana program, establish licensing procedures, implement a tax of up to $100 per pound of dried cannabis and free all persons now serving time for marijuana-only offenses.
The initiative is being sponsored by Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, which states on its website that it “seeks to engage Missourians in a serious, public discussion about the issues associated with cannabis consumption, including medical cannabis, industrial hemp, public safety and economic cost/benefit analysis in order to address problems associated with the current, failed policy.” The organization now has 6 months, until May 6th to be exact, to gather enough signatures to get the issue on the 2012 ballot. Missouri law requires registered voter signatures “equal to 8% of the total votes cast in the 2008 governor’s election from six of the state’s nine congressional districts.”
Another state moving forward with cannabis reform is Ohio, where two weeks ago supporters also gained approval of their ballot measure language for an Ohio medical marijuana program. The Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment would establish Ohio dispensaries (called safe access centers) which, along with patients and caregivers, would have to register with the state and be limited to growing 12 plants per patient. Individuals with qualifying conditions would also be allowed to grow that amount on their own.
The Ohio Patients Network, which is behind the move, now needs to collect 385,253 signatures from registered voters in half of the state’s counties. According to the group’s spokesperson, Rob Ryan, this may actually be the toughest part: “If there is enough organizational skill to collect the signatures, which is not an easy task, it will pass,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind.”
Indeed, this may be the best time to fight for reform; Obama’s attacks not withstanding. Polling has indicated that as many as 73% of Ohioans support medical marijuana and nationally support for full legalization has just reached 50%. Americans are ready to ditch cannabis prohibition and ballot measures are the key to taking this important decision away from incompetent lawmakers and hand it to the people.
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