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Backers Drop Medical Marijuana Ballot Issue

May 31, 2016

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesperson Aaron Marshall
Credit Ohio Public Radio

A national group has dropped its effort to put a medical marijuana issue on the fall ballot.

Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

It was a surprise move, made less than 72 hours after lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill, and before Gov. John Kasich signed it into law. Aaron Marshall, a spokesman for a group that’s been collecting signatures to put a medical marijuana ballot issue before voters this fall, announced Ohioans for Medical Marijuana was suspending its campaign.
“You know the reality is raising money for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult and given improvements made late in the game by the legislature and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign it, it was just a tough road forward for us.”
Just after the legislature passed the plan, Marshall was critical of the bill, saying it didn’t do enough to help patients But he says this decision was made after weighing the costs of the ballot issue against what could be accomplished. The amendment Marshall's group was pushing would allow for home growing and smoking of marijuana, two things the lawmakers' bill doesn't permit, and would also expand the list of conditions for which doctors could recommend pot. The news that the group's ballot drive is over might be a shock to some who had wanted the option to vote on it this fall.
“You know, Jo, it really doesn’t catch me by surprise.”
That’s Democratic Senator Kenny Yuko. He has been fighting for medical marijuana legalization in Ohio for more than a decade. And he was instrumental in passing the legislature’s bill. He says it’s true the thought of a looming ballot issue might have persuaded some state lawmakers to take action to pass the legislative bill now. But he thinks strong polling that’s not affected by a ballot issue played a key role too.
“90% of our residents, our constituents of the 11 ½ million people in Ohio, 90% say they approve of this. Nine percent say they are opposed. I mean if I’m a legislator and I’m representing any senate or house district, I have to know that somewhere along the line a very, very, very strong majority of people are very, very much in favor of this. Why? Because they see this happening in other states. They hear the stories. They know the success of it.”
Yuko says he doesn’t think the legislature will try to weaken this bill now in absence of the ballot measure. And he thinks Kasich will sign it into law.
“Every indication I’ve gotten from leadership and from my colleagues, like Senator Burke, indicate that the Governor is more than willing to sign this. If we passed it, the Governor was going to sign it.”
Yuko says he’s been receiving phone calls from advocates for medical marijuana who want to attend the bill signing ceremony when it happens. And according to Yuko, that could happen in the next few days.