Supporters Plan High Financed Effort To Legalize Medical Marijuana in Ohio

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UPDATED: Wednesday July 23, 2014 1:14 PM

Using the successful 2009 casino initiative in Ohio as their model, a new group of medical marijuana supporters plan a major push to get their issue on the 2015 or 2016 statewide ballot.

10TV has confirmed from several sources that the new group will be financed by wealthy contributors in and outside Ohio.  There have already been meetings to plan strategy.

There has been no decision on whether the effort will be a ballot initiative or referendum, but Ian James of Professional Petition Management has been involved in the meetings which could indicate an initiative.

The campaign would focus on the medical benefits of marijuana - including childhood epilepsy.

The group will propose 10 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, but in what is sure to be a controversial decision, would not allow personal marijuana growing.

Simon Dunkle is a former spokesman for the Ohio Rights Group, which failed in its efforts to get medical marijuana on this November’s ballot.

Dunkle says the well-financed effort is what many grassroot activists have feared.

"I think it's the big money corporate situation that everybody was worried about," said Dunkle.  "Financially it's better if you can make it a small business venture where you have people in communities making money off it and it's a local benefit to the economy."

John Pardee, president of the Ohio Rights Group, told 10TV he will proceed with his amendment.

"We welcome multiple ballot initiatives in the future," said Pardee.  "We welcome an open debate."

Earlier this year the Ohio Rights Group had been hoping for a 2014 ballot referendum that would legalize medical marijuana in the state constitution.

But the effort stalled at around 100,000 petition signatures while the group needed a minimum of 385,000 to make the ballot.

It is not known if the financial backers for the new effort will be made public.

It cost casino supporters around $48 million in 2009 for their successful campaign to legalize four casino locations across the state.

A spokesperson for both Penn National and Rock Ohio Ventures say that their companies would not be involved in a marijuana ballot issue.

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