A Guide to Cannabis Activism in Ohio and the other Midwest States

Cannabis Activism

In the recent times, public opinion and attitudes about cannabis have changed dramatically. In 1990 only 16% of American adults supported legalization. Now 16 years later, the number of those in support of legalization has doubled. Due to cannabis activism groups by 2016, more than half of American adults (approximately 57%) were in support of cannabis legalization.

In the most recent 2017 polls, findings suggest that up to 64% of Americans support cannabis legalization. Even more surprisingly, the number of Republicans in support of legalization has increased from 42% to 51%. All this is a clear affirmation that American society is changing its long-held hardline stance against marijuana.

Today, recreational marijuana is legal in Washington D.C., the District of Columbia and seven other states. These include Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, and California. In addition to that, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.

According to analysts, the marijuana industry in the United States is expected to total close to $10 billion in 2017. Additionally, they project sales to hit $17 billion by 2021. Some industry experts have even claimed that if the federal government were to legalize cannabis, it would outsell ice-cream.

However, even as support for cannabis legalization grows in most parts of the country, Midwest America still lags behind. According to experts, this is down to the fact that the Midwest states are historically conservative regions. Nonetheless, many industry experts expect more Midwest states to open up to cannabis legalization. Analysts believe the success of cannabis legalization in other states will drive this.

Current State Of Cannabis Activism In The American Midwest

1. Ohio

Legal Status of Cannabis

Cannabis Activism in Ohio

In Ohio, it is illegal to use cannabis for recreational purposes. However, Ohio decriminalized possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis. It attracts a maximum fine of $150. Possession of between 100 and 200 grams of cannabis is considered a misdemeanor. It attracts a stiffer sentence of 3o days or a maximum fine of $250.

In 2016, Ohio made it legal for residents with certain qualifying medical conditions to use medical marijuana. Some of the qualifying conditions include; HIV/Aids, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder among others.

The law will take full effect in September of 2018.

Cannabis Activism

Industry observers are predicting an exciting year for recreational users of cannabis in Ohio. Cannabis activists in the state have already announced plans for yet another legalization initiative. This new initiative is set for November 2018 and seeks to;

  • Allow residents aged 21 and above to grow and use cannabis in private
  • Implement a system where the state treats cannabis the same way it treats alcohol. In this sense, residents could own marijuana dispensaries, processors or even farms.

Nevertheless, the prohibition of public use of marijuana would remain in place. Driving under the influence of cannabis will also remain illegal. For the proposed initiative to appear on the November ballot, the cannabis activists must collect 305, 592 valid voter signatures by the 4th of July.

2. Illinois

Legal Status of Cannabis

Cannabis Activism in Illinois

In Illinois, the general assembly legalized the use of medical cannabis in 2013. Under the law, residents can apply to participate in the cannabis program if they have either one of the 30 qualifying conditions. These include HIV/Aids, spinal cord disease, hepatitis C and severe fibromyalgia among others. Unfortunately, the program is temporary and will end on January 1st, 2020 unless the assembly extends it.

On the other hand, recreational cannabis is illegal in Illinois. This means that people cannot grow or possess cannabis. Illinois voted to decriminalize marijuana in July 2016. This means that possession of under 10 grams of cannabis is only subject to a fine of between $100 and $200.

Cannabis Activism

Although the current governor of Illinois is anti-legalization, many analysts expect positive gains in cannabis activism in 2018 and 2019. One of the strongest indications of this is the fact that the leading Democrat candidate for the fall election supports the legalization of recreational cannabis. If the Democrat candidate becomes governor, the chances of full cannabis legalization grow immensely.

In March of 2017, lawmakers in Illinois introduced a bill seeking to legalize recreational marijuana for residents aged 21 and above. The proposed bill would allow possession of up to 28 grams of cannabis and freedom to grow five marijuana plants.

In March 2018, voters in Cook County may get to vote in an advisory referendum on the legalization of recreational cannabis. This is the Cook County Board chairman, and other commissioners forwarded proposals to include the referendum in the 2018 primary ballot. According to polls, at least 74% of Chicago residents support legalization. Analysts expect official support for legalization in Cook County to create even more momentum in the path towards legalization in Illinois. This is because Cook County is the most populous county in the state and is also the home of the state’s largest city; Chicago. The full legalization of cannabis in Illinois will also have major financial benefits for the state. In fact, many observers expect recreational marijuana to earn Illinois revenues of up to $700 million per year.

All these factors combined are likely to strengthen cannabis activism in the state. If successful, many expect that Illinois will lead the way for other Midwest states to legalize recreational cannabis.

3. Indiana

Legal Status of Cannabis

Indiana Cannabis Activism

Indiana still maintains a hardline stance against cannabis. The state law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance. This means it views marijuana as a substance with the high risk of abuse and no medical value. It is a crime to possess, grow or sell marijuana in the state. Possession of 30 grams or less is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of up to 1 year and a maximum fine of $5000. Possession, cultivation or sale of more than 30 grams is a felony.

Cannabis Activism

Cannabis activists in the state of Indiana have suffered some setbacks in the recent past. In 2015, bills seeking to legalize medical use of cannabis were introduced to both the House and Senate. However, both bills failed with the Senate bill not receiving a hearing.

Most recently in 2017, lawmakers in Indiana have shown a small change in tune. This is after Indiana legislators passed a law allowing residents with epilepsy to use cannabinoid oil (CBD) as treatment. Following this first medical marijuana law in the state, experts have predicted better days for cannabis activists in Indiana.

Many doctors, veteran organizations and cannabis advocacy groups in Indiana have publicly asked lawmakers to allow residents to use medical marijuana. In response, a Republican lawmaker has also announced intentions to introduce a bill seeking to legalize medical cannabis in the 2018 legislative session. However, many analysts note that there is great opposition to the idea, particularly among fellow Republicans. Therefore, the future of cannabis legalization in Indiana remains bleak.

4. Michigan

Legal Status of Cannabis

Michigan is one of the states that have not yet decriminalized cannabis. This means that it is still illegal for people to possess, sell, cultivate or use marijuana. Michigan treats possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor with a sentence of up to a year and a maximum fine of $2000. Possession in a park may attract a sentence of up to 2 years. The actual use of cannabis is also a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of 90 days and a fine of up to $100.

Cannabis Activism, Michigan

Medical cannabis is legal in Michigan. The law legalizing medical use of cannabis came into effect in 2008 with 62.7% of voters supporting it. This made it the 13th state in the nation to legalize medical cannabis. Qualifying patients are allowed to cultivate up to 12 plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces (approximately 70.8 grams). Qualifying conditions include cancer, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, severe pain, seizures and Nail patella among others.

Cannabis Activism

Many legalization enthusiasts may have expected Michigan to legalize recreational marijuana soon after legalizing medical marijuana. The truth is that the closest cannabis activists came to realizing this dream was in 2016; 8 years after medical cannabis legalization.

The good news is that 2018 may hold a brighter future for cannabis activists and enthusiasts in Michigan. The Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in November 2017 said they had collected approximately 360,000 signatures to put the issue on the 2018 ballot. The law requires only 252, 523 valid signatures. Voters will, however, have to wait until January 2018 to know whether or not the initiative will appear on the ballot. According to a poll conducted in May 2017, support for cannabis legalization has grown to 58% in Michigan.

It is also worth noting that support for recreational cannabis legalization is also gaining tract among politicians. Most recently, 4 Democratic gubernatorial candidates and one Republican candidate have spoken in favor of cannabis legalization.

5. Minnesota

Legal Status of Cannabis

Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in Minnesota. Since 1976, the authorities have decriminalized cannabis possession. Ultimately, residents caught with up to 42.5 grams stand a petty misdemeanor charge attracting a fine of up to $200. More than 42.5 grams is considered a felony which could attract the sentence of up to 30 years and up to $1 million in fines.

Minnesota Cannabis Activism

In 2014, Minnesota joined the group of states that have legalized medical marijuana. The program kicked off in June 2015. Many cannabis advocates consider Minnesota’s medical marijuana bill the most restrictive in the country. This is due to the limited number of qualifying conditions which includes glaucoma, HIV/Aids, Tourettes, seizure disorders and Crohn’s disease. PTSD was only added as a qualifying condition in mid-2017.

Cannabis Activism

Cannabis legalization has not enjoyed much support in Minnesota in the past. In 2014 for example, only about 30% of Minnesotans supported legalization of recreational cannabis. The fact that the current governor is strongly against legalization makes it even harder for cannabis activists.

Still, all indications are that things are looking up for cannabis activism efforts in Minnesota. Firstly, public opinion and attitudes on recreational cannabis are improving. A recent poll conducted on more than 7,000 respondents established that up to 50.2% of Minnesotans support cannabis legalization.

Secondly, the current governor’s term ends in 2018. Luckily for legalization enthusiasts, the incumbent does to plan to seek re-election. All the leading gubernatorial candidates from the incumbent’s Democratic-Farm-Labor party support the legalization of recreational cannabis except one. On the other hand, none of the Republican candidates seem to support legalization. Some of the lawmakers in support of legalization have termed it as unavoidable. Subsequently, many observers expect the legalization debate to play out quite often in the 2018 gubernatorial election campaigns.

6. Missouri

Legal Status of Cannabis

Missouri is one of the most conservative states on issues of cannabis legalization. Recreational use of marijuana is illegal. In 2014, lawmakers decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis. A first offense would from January 2017 attract a fine of up to $500. However, a second offense may carry a fine of up to $2000 and a jail term of up to a year. Cultivation and sale of cannabis remain a felony.

Cannabis Activism of Missouri

Medical cannabis is also illegal in Missouri. In 2014, lawmakers passed the Missouri Medical Marijuana bill which allowed residents with persistent seizures to use CBD oil.

Cannabis Activism

Advocates of cannabis legalization in Missouri are making slow progress. Luckily, polls suggest that voters in Missouri are more likely to support medicinal cannabis. A campaign to include the medical marijuana issue on the ballot in 2016 missed narrowly. This is after electoral officials disqualified thousands of signatures on the petition.

In 2017, proponents of legalization in Missouri have come up with even more petitions to include the issue in the 2018 ballot. One such advocacy group, New Approach Missouri has already collected 100,000 signatures. By law, approximately 170, 000 signatures are required. The group has permanent signing centers in Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis, and Columbia.

In addition to that, Brad Bradshaw, a physician, lawyer and former lieutenant governor candidate is also driving forward his medical cannabis initiative. Bradshaw’s campaign already claims to have collected approximately 142,000 signatures.

A third initiative is also in the making, this time with the backing of Steve Tilley the former House Speaker and Mike Colona, a former state representative. This initiative seeks to campaign for a statutory change reducing the number of signatures required to make the ballot.

While all the initiatives mentioned above are directed towards legalizing medical marijuana, some initiatives are seeking to legalize recreational cannabis as well. One of this is a campaign from the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement. According to analysts though, these initiatives are likely to have less support than the medical cannabis initiatives. Cannabis activists have until May 6th, 2018 to collect the minimum required the number of signatures for their petitions.

7. North Dakota

Legal Status of Cannabis

North Dakota prohibited marijuana in 1933. Possession and cultivation of marijuana remain a crime in the state. Possession of up to 1 ounce is treated as a misdemeanor crime and attracts a sentence of up to 30 days and a maximum fine of $1,500.Cannabis ActivismCannabis Activism North Dakota

North Dakota legalized medical cannabis in 2016. This meant that residents with qualifying medical conditions are now allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of medicinal cannabis legally. However, home cultivation remains a crime.

Cannabis Activism

In 2014, the University of North Dakota conducted a poll in which 68% of North Dakota residents opposed legalizing recreational cannabis compared to 24% in support. This poll was a clear indication that residents of North Dakota are still reserved when it comes to recreational cannabis.

Indeed, a campaign to include the legalization debate on the 2016 ballot failed after supporters of legalization failed to get enough signatures. Voters in North Dakota have another chance to include legalization of cannabis on the 2018 ballot. This is after the Secretary of State recently approved a petition for recreational legalization. Activists will need a minimum of 13,500 valid votes for the marijuana issue to appear in the 2018 ballot.

South Dakota may also go to the vote in 2018 in regards to legalizing medical marijuana. Proponents of medical marijuana have already submitted an estimated 15,000 signatures. South Dakota law requires a minimum of 14,000 signatures.

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