weedThis might be it, folks, Issue 3 marijuana law reform or bust.

ResponsibleOhio’s Issue 3 proposal for a constitutional amendment to legalize medical and recreational marijuana sales in Ohio won a major endorsement last week from a pro-medical marijuana group that has been attempting to get its own proposal to the Ohio ballot since 2013.

The Ohio Rights Group has thrown its support behind ResponsibleOhio’s Issue 3 proposal, saying that while the group was initially resistant to the amendment, after meetings and negotiation, the ORG now feels Issue 3 is the state’s best shot to reform marijuana laws for some time to come.

“We have to support Issue 3 with everything we have,” two ORG leaders wrote in an opinion piece recently published in The Athens NEWS. “We see no other group, including our own, that has the ability to put (the elements together to get a proposal on the ballot).”

The group officers, President Mary Jane Borden and Vice President John Pardee, said that while good people can disagree about the temporary business structure the ResponsibleOhio amendment puts in place, “they all need to realize we are not likely to see an opportunity like this to end prohibition in Ohio in the foreseeable future.”

After speaking with national cannabis-reform groups, Borden and Pardee wrote, they realized Ohio is nowhere in those groups’ near-term or long-term strategic plans. From their opinion piece:

For the past three years, the Ohio Rights Group has grown into the leading voice for Ohio’s cannabis patients. We’ve fought and sacrificed so much on behalf of the people who are suffering the most under the mighty yoke of prohibition. We have tried for three years, with the help of many of you good people, to end prohibition by circulating the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment.

This beautiful document was aimed at enshrining your rights to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. We’ve learned in the process that in order to be successful at putting an amendment on the ballot, you need three vitally important elements: a well-written amendment, a robust and well-run organization, and a substantial amount of money. The ORG definitely had the first element in the OCRA. We also built a robust organization, and good folks can differ on exactly how well run it was.

But we were never able to get that all important last element – significant operating capital. Money is the life-blood of politics.

Money is what ResponsibleOhio has been able to raise for their effort.

Kent State University poll last week, commissioned by WKYC in Cleveland, found 56 percent of Ohio voters planned to vote “yes” on Issue 3. The poll used the “monopoly” language Ohio Secretary of State assigned to Issue 3 on the ballot. ResponsibleOhio had fought against the use of what the group considered negative monopoly language.

Meanwhile 54 percent, the poll said, also plan to vote in favor of Issue 2, which the state Legislature put on the ballot as a challenge to Issue 3. If passed, Issue 2, with its anti-monopoly and anti-drug wording, is intended to invalidate Issue 3. If both issues pass, the matter is likely headed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

ORG President Borden said in an interview Friday that it had taken years for the group to gather around 150,000 signatures of the more than 304,000 needed to make it to the ballot, and from experience they know that probably only around 100,000 of those would qualify. She pointed to ResponsibleOhio gathering close to 800,000 signatures and still having to go back for more.

She also said that the passage of Issue 2 would make the job of every group with a marijuana proposal much more difficult because of the political obstacles that would be put in place in the form of Ohio Ballot Board approval.

“If Issue 2 does pass, all of these constitutional amendments are up to question because it’s not just about a monopoly, it’s about a commercial interest,” Borden said. “If it does pass, we as a people will have given way too much power to the state to control our law and our constitution.”

With regard to ORG’s choice to endorse Issue 3, she said it wasn’t easy.

“I would say this (endorsement) was a very tough decision for us. We had to do a lot of soul searching, and we had to look at who we stand for and what our purpose it,” Borden said. “Through that lens, we concluded we’re clearly in support of the medicinal use of cannabis in Ohio, and clearly in support of the patients who make medical and therapeutic use of it.”

She pointed specifically to the non-profit International Cannabinoid Institute, a $24 million facility being planned for Licking County under the Issue 3 proposal that would develop individualized strains of marijuana attuned to various illnesses.

Meanwhile, there is a conspicuous and disturbing lack of coverage from national pro-marijuana groups about the proposal in Ohio, as MarijuanaPolitics.com recently covered very well:

In 2015, fully a year before California’s next attempt, Ohio may join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska in creating the nation’s fifth legal marijuana market.

Like those four legal states, consumers will be able to possess an ounce of marijuana, in public.

Possession of an ounce of extract becomes legal, too, just like three of the legal states and four times more than Washington.

With a $50 home grow license, adult Ohioans can cultivate four mature marijuana plants, just like in Oregon. That’s one more mature plant for an adult than Colorado and Alaska. Washington State still doesn’t allow home grow.

Medical marijuana will be legalized, too, similar to Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. But Ohio will allow patients to self-administer medical marijuana at the workplace, something no other state allows.

The maximum allowed number of retail pot shops for Ohio consumers will be capped at 1,159, which is more outlets than all four of the current legal states combined.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has endorsed the measure, known as Issue 3 in Ohio. So, as you might imagine, the national org is marshaling all its resources online and in Ohio to ensure that legalization comes to the nation’s 7th most-populous state, right?

You’d imagine wrong.

 D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.