Moving the Needle on Legalizing Herb in Ohio

Will state legislators embrace heady nugs?
  • Will state legislators embrace heady nugs?
State Rep. Robert Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, yesterday introduced two bills in the Statehouse that would legalize marijuana use in Ohio.

One of Hagan's proposals would give the green light to medical marijuana use for conditions like sickle-cell anemia, cancer and chronic pain of any ilk. A second proposal aims to legalize recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older, a la Colorado and Washington. The latter comes complete with restrictions on where the plant could be sold (state-licensed joints, if you'll pardon the pun) and a 15-percent tax that Hagan says could be funneled toward the education budget.

"You know what the social costs really are? Billions and billions of dollars we've spent on the war on drugs that has failed," Hagan told 10TV in Columbus, explaining his opinion on the status quo.

It's not the first time Hagan has tried to promote this work. Three years ago, he introduced a similar medical marijuana bill. That attempt was summarily shot down.

Given the legislative precedent thus far, things don't seem overwhelmingly optimistic within state government. Over the years, though, the people of Ohio have begun taking up the fight on their own terms.

Outside of the Statehouse and on the streets of cities across Ohio, at least one group is actively courting the petition process. Ohio Rights Group has collected more than 1,000 signatures in an attempt to toss a ballot issue before voters. If those signatures are approved by the attorney general, the organization will then gather support from around the state in the form of 385,000 signatures.

The 2013 Cleveland Marijuana March, organized by NORML, will take place May 4 at Fort Huntington Park downtown. Ohio Rights Group will be on hand to collect even more signatures for their effort.

According to a recent Saperstein Associates poll for The Columbus Dispatch, Ohioans support legalizing medical marijuana 63 percent to 37 percent. Opposition is still pretty hefty for full-on legalization, though.