The group Ohioan for Medical Marijuana announced Saturday that their campaign to fundraise and advocate for the legalization of medical pot is officially suspended.
Statement from Ohioans for Medical Marijuana:
"We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the State of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a roadmap for those improvements.
But the reality is for us, this campaign to put our issue on the 2016 ballot ends today. To everyone who joined us on this effort, especially those patients and their families who will benefit from Ohio’s new medical marijuana program, we owe you a debt of gratitude."
The Ohio state legislature passed a medical marijuana law on Wednesday. It now awaits the governor's approval.
"It had become increasingly clear following the state legislature’s passage of a medical marijuana law on Wednesday that our ballot issue campaign had arrived at a critical juncture," the group said in a press release.
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana cited fundraising difficulties and certain provisions in HB 523 -- the legislature's medical marijuana bill -- as reasons to suspend the campaign.
With several hundred thousand signatures collected thus far, one option for our movement would have been to continue to pour our resources into obtaining the additional signatures needed to put the issue before voters.
"But the reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult," the group said in a press release, "especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill.
"To be sure, there are shortcomings to the legislature’s measure," the press release said. "There are a number of qualifying conditions which should have been included, and we firmly believe that patients should have the right to smoke and grow their own medical marijuana. But, all in all, it is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community."
The group said it appreciated the removal of "much of the red tape and onerous regulations that would have severely limited patient access," and "troubling provisions raising the threshold for pain" and adding "a very important provision granting an affirmative defense to qualifying patients beginning this fall."
The advocacy group needed to collect 305,591 signatures by the first week of July to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
Over the last few months, the group distributed press releases denouncing the Ohio House's marijuana bill, saying "patients would face new hurdles" and "have low access" to medical marijuana.
“We are pleased to see lawmakers finally attempting to help Ohioans who need medical marijuana,” Spokesman Aaron Marshall said in April. “We have identified several ways in which their proposal falls woefully short. We hope they will study our recommendations, and make changes that are needed to strengthen the legislation and ensure their law actually helps the folks it is intended to help.”
Governor Kasich is expected to sign HB 523, according to the advocacy group.