Ohio group pushes ahead to get pot question on 2016 ballots

By Ann Sanner, Associated Press | Posted - Jan. 15, 2016 at 1:11 p.m.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A group hoping to put a marijuana legalization issue on Ohio's ballot this fall says it won't wait to see if state lawmakers act on medical marijuana and will push ahead with its proposal despite the failure of a separate effort in November.

Jacob Wagner, the co-founder of Ohioans to End Prohibition, said in an interview Friday that his organization remains focused on gathering the more than 305,000 valid signatures needed by July to get its "Cannabis Control Amendment" before voters in the presidential election year.

His comments come a day after Ohio House leaders joined two marijuana legalization advocates in announcing a task force to study medical marijuana.

Wagner said convening a task force "doesn't mean the fight is over. It certainly doesn't mean that they are going to pass anything good, anything substantial anytime soon."

He said sick patients who could benefit from access to medical marijuana cannot afford to wait the task force's outcome.

"We still have to keep moving forward with what we're trying to do," Wagner told The Associated Press.

His group's proposed constitutional amendment seeks to legalize pot for medical and recreational use and leave cannabis production to the free market. Adults 21 and older could legally grow up to six mature marijuana plants and have up to 100 grams, about 3.5 ounces. Patients would have higher limits. Medicinal marijuana users could have up to 200 grams, or 7 ounces, and a dozen mature plants.

Wagner said the group has collected roughly 60,000 to 70,000 signatures so far and is working raise money for its campaign.

The future of marijuana in Ohio has been facing uncertainty since last fall, after the overwhelming defeat of a separate effort to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational use in a single vote.

The measure, Issue 3, would have established 10 sites with exclusive authority to grow marijuana, and with profits going to the issue's deep-pocketed investors.

Wagner said he doesn't view voter opposition to Issue 3 as a rejection of marijuana legalization in general.

"The defeat last year was just a straight-up rejection of greed," he said. "It was just a rejection of that specific plan."

Voters opposed Issue 3 nearly 64 percent to 36 percent, but polls have suggested Ohioans support medical marijuana.

State lawmakers have been weighing how to address the issue.

On Thursday, Ohio House leaders joined two marijuana legalization advocates in announcing a broad task force that included members from business organizations, law enforcement and medical associations. Among the members named was Jimmy Gould, a key supporter of the ResponsibleOhio campaign that brought Issue 3 to the ballot.

Gould told reporters Thursday that he believed the task force would work in good faith to get something done on medical marijuana.

"When you lose, you get back up on your feet and take the best path that's available to you," Gould said. "I think this mechanism, this way, is probably the best way we possibly could go about it."

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Ann Sanner


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