Dueling Ohio Medical Marijuana Efforts Stalling as July Signature Deadline Approaches

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Two proposals to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio have lost momentum and are now on the verge of sputtering out, dashing hopes that the state will pass MMJ laws in 2012.

The lack of support shows the dangers of having competing proposals on the table at the same time and reinforces the idea that unity is the best strategy for legislative success.

Organizers behind the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act and the Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment are reportedly way short of the 385,000 valid signatures needed to qualify the measures for the fall ballot, and supporters are now saying it’s “highly unlikely” either proposal will hit the required total. The groups behind the measures have until July 9 to gather enough signatures.

Barring a significant turnaround in the next three weeks, Ohio MMJ advocates will have to set their sights on 2013.

Getting Ohio on the medical cannabis bandwagon would have a been a major coup for the industry, giving the state’s sizable population and political influence. It also would have allowed MMJ to keep – and eventually strengthen – its foothold in the Midwest. Currently Michigan is the only state in the region with medical marijuana laws, but local officials have turned against dispensaries and the industry has shrunk rapidly.

But the struggle to build enough support in Ohio shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise.

For one, passing MMJ laws is a long process, and it almost always takes several substantial attempts marked by incremental gains to finally win over lawmakers and/or voters. At the same time, it’s difficult to collect a large number of signatures when you’re in essence competing for money and resources against another proposal. If medical marijuana is to make any real progress in Ohio, the groups behind this year’s two proposals will have to combine forces and come up with a single measure.

With that as the backdrop, some industry leaders tempered their expectations ahead of time. The Marijuana Policy Project, for instance, didn’t even include Ohio in its recent campaign featuring states it is working closely with to pass MMJ laws by 2014.