Pubdate: Sun, 30 Jun 2013
Source: Chillicothe Gazette (OH)
Copyright: 2013 Chillicothe Gazette
Author: Jona Ison
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Ohio)


The local efforts to gather signatures to place an initiative on the 
ballot to legalize marijuana in Ohio got moving Saturday.

Daniel Helsel, 28, has started Freedom Fighters, initially called 
Chillicothe for Cannabis, to be the local organizer to collect 
signatures on behalf of Ohio Rights Group. In May, the nonpartisan 
group received approval to move forward with collecting signatures to 
place an amendment on the ballot to legalize marijuana for medicinal 
and industrial use.

In order for the "Cannabis Rights Amendment" to be placed on the 
ballot, sponsors need to collect 385,253 signatures in at least 44 of 
the state's 88 counties. The group has until July 2014 to gather the 
signatures to get the measure on the fall 2014 ballot.

Helsel, a stay-at-home father with four daughters, said he's always 
been interested in the medicinal benefits of cannabis. When he 
learned of the Ohio Rights Group and the petition for the amendment, 
he reached out to ask how he could help.

"They didn't really have anyone in Southern Ohio, so I stepped up," 
he said. "A lot of people believe we're just a bunch of stoners, but 
we're not. We're not for recreational use. We're all for medicinal 
and industrial use."

More than 25 people showed up for the meeting on Saturday where they 
learned a little more about the amendment and opportunities to 
volunteer. Helsel emphasized that anyone collecting signatures should 
be registered to vote and not have a felony record.

As with most petition drives for ballot issues, it is accompanied 
with a push to register voters because only signatures from 
registered voters count toward the number needed. Helsel's first 
attempt to gather signatures earlier this month resulted in 29 
signatures, but 20 of those were not from registered voters.

Jacob Higman was one of the people at the Saturday meeting interested 
in helping out.

"It's medicine," said Higman, who has had a history of anxiety and 
depression. "It helps you get through it."

He wasn't the only one present who has a history of anxiety and 
depression who think marijuana helps with the disorders. Rose Betts, 
59, and Glenda Elder, 49, both said they used to self-medicate with 
marijuana. Both now take prescription medications.

"I would rather self-medicate with marijuana than take prescription 
mediation because of the side effects of the medication," Elder said, 
adding that marijuana helps her to relax and calm her anxiety and 
depressive disorders.

Betts said she thinks legalization of marijuana for medical use could 
decrease the number of people turning to "harder" drugs such as 
cocaine and heroin.

"I've never done anything other than marijuana in my life," she said, 
adding that the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug is not always true.

The pair said they had been waiting to see when a local petition 
drive would be conducted.

"We just started, and it seems like a lot of people are for it, they 
just wanted somebody to stand up for them," Helsel said.

Eighteen states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medicinal use.

The Cannabis Rights Amendment, if put on the ballot and passed, lists 
specific medical conditions such as glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, cancer and 
Crohn's disease, that would be required for treatment.

The amendment also would direct the Ohio Department of Agriculture to 
be the agency in charge of regulating who could grow and sell hemp 
for industrial uses such as paper, fuel, foods and building materials.

The amendment would not change existing laws regarding driving under 
the influence or public smoking bans.
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