Ohio Group to Press on With Medical Marijuana Legalization Efforts

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I received a phone call several days ago from Ryan Maitland of the Ohio Coalition for Medical Compassion, the group behind an effort to legalize medical marijuana in the Buckeye State. As I wrote about last week, the coalition submitted a petition to the state containing 2,143 signatures, which is the first step toward getting the medical marijuana issue on the ballot next year. But roughly 75 percent of the signatures were deemed invalid, leaving the group with just 534 signatures – a far cry from the 1,000 needed.

Maitland wanted the chance to explain what happened, calling it a “unique” situation.

So here goes:

Most of the signatures that were thrown out were gathered by one petitioner (a licensed attorney). The individual had 12 packets, each with 95-100 signatures. However, in each packet there was at least one signature that was crossed out. In these cases, the person signing the petition made a typo or a mistake, crossed out the line, and then signed on the next line.

Because a crossed-out signature obviously is not valid, the petitioner didn’t include those in his final tally at the bottom of each packet, where he was required to state how many signatures he witnessed and then provide his signature.

Now it gets a bit tricky. The state election board threw out all 12 packets without even cross-verifying them to see if they were legit, saying they couldn’t determine which signatures weren’t witnessed by the petitioner, Maitland said. You’d assume it would be obvious: the crossed-out lines.

“Our petitioners were under the impression that they shouldn’t count crossed-out signatures,” Maitland said. “But I guess we made a mistake. The response we got was ‘while we see 50 spaces are filled out, we don’t know which ones the petitioner didn’t witness.’ So the entire packet was thrown out.”

Confused? I am. But the bottom line is that the coalition will press forward and gather another 2,000 or so signatures. The amount needed is still the same: 1,000. But it’s common to gather much more than the minimum, just to be safe. Maitland said the group has gathered 600 new signatures to date. He also expects it will take the group five or six attempts to get the required signatures approved, saying that it’s par for the course with a controversial subjects like medical marijuana.

To avoid the same problems from the first go-around, Maitland said “We’re just going to count every line that has writing on it, even if it says Mickey Mouse.”

If successful, the group would then have to get 385,245 signatures to put a medical marijuana measure on the ballot, moving Ohio a step closer to joining the list of 16 states (plus Washington D.C.) that have approved medical marijuana laws.