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NEWS9 Special Assignment: Legalizing Hemp in Ohio

Updated: Wednesday, February 19 2014, 09:44 PM EST

 

By Jennifer Black

 

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio--

 

There has been a lot of buzz in recent weeks- after Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.  Meanwhile, there are more than a dozen states that have legalized the drug for medical and therapeutic purposes.  Soon, Ohio could join that list.

 

Mary Jane Borden is co-author of a constitutional amendment, an initiative to legalize cannabis for medical and industrial use.  Borden is also the secretary and treasurer of the Ohio Rights Group.

 

ORG is a group pounding the pavement to collect signatures to see to it that a petition makes it onto the November 2014 ballot.

 

"We're pouring millings of dollars into putting people in jail in terms of the court system.  Right there is the cost savings,” Borden said.  “On the other side of it, once it comes into a legal regulated market then there's the revenue side of it.  We could have as much as $250M annually.”

 

Borden said that the language in the petition is three-fold.  The primary focus is legalizing the plant for medical and therapeutic purposes.

 

"Essentially alleviating the suffering of so many Ohioans whose needs are not being met by current therapies," Borden said.

 

The second section is written in regards to industrial-hemp.  Borden believes the one plant has a multitude of uses.

 

"You may be using it and don't even know it.  It may be part of your car seat, so I think the average person will be astounded to find that making this plant legal in the state of Ohio will be," Borden said.

 

The amendment also focuses on the future by calling for a regulatory commission.

 

"We're trying to take that from an illegal market and put it into a legal regulatory frame work.  Rather than have to continuously go back to the legislature to adjust this nuisance, as we been to structure this regulated market, we feel that a commission is the best way to handle that,” Borden said.

 

At last check there were about 45,000 valid signatures, which doesn't account for petitions still making their rounds.  In all, more than 385,000 valid signatures are required to successfully land it on the ballot.

 

Meanwhile, there is legislation, House Bill 153 and House Joint Resolution 6, both authored by Democratic State Rep. Robert Hagan of District 58.

 

At this time, both items have only received only one hearing at the state Capitol.

 

So with petitions rolling in and legislation seemingly stalled at the state capitol, where does Attorney General Mike Dewine stand on the issue?

 

"One of the great things about having 50 states is, we refer to us as ‘50 laboratories of democracy.’  We kind of watch what happens in other states.  So let’s wait a few years, let see if the results are as good as the proponents of marijuana would say in Colorado," Dewine said.

 

Dewine cautioned that Ohio should hold off until we find out what the unintended consequences are.

 

While Borden admits that it will be an uphill battle, her reaction remains one of resilience.

 

“Considering what we're up against between the labyrinth of government agencies and industries that are now profiting off of its illegal status-Yes, it's an uphill battle,” Borden said. "We're not looking at failure, we're looking at ballot placement in the fall of 2014.”

 

ORG has until July 2 to collect the total number of signatures needed to get the amendment on the ballot in November.

 

 

 

NEWS9 Special Assignment: Legalizing Hemp in Ohio


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