On January 23, the Ohio Rights Group turned nine, and through those years, its influence over medical marijuana policy in Ohio has been significant. From humble beginnings of a mere five activists to a statewide force of thousands, the ORG (and its predecessor organizations) has covered a lot of ground: four ballot initiatives, 150,000 signatures, numerous events and hundreds of media interviews, to name a few. This page is a celebration of the ORG's accomplishments by year. We sincerely thank the legion of volunteers who gave countless hours to make all of this possible.
Items on this page are in chronological order when viewed on a smart phone.
Ohio Rights Group - Hemp Has Arrived - 2019
'O' is for
Ohio Rights Group
The ORG was featured in the May edition of
Ladies of Hemp - RIffe Center legislative meeting - March 6, 2019
In August 2018, the ORG received a letter from Huntington National Bank that its perfect, seven-year old account would be force closed because the ORG advocates for the sick who use cannabis as medicine. An expose on this shocking situation appeared as the cover story of the January 2019 edition of the Columbus Free Press. The ORG switched to a credit union and is doing just fine
Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program Milestones
July 28, 2019 - Board of Pharmacy issues first recall.
Mar. 8, 2019 - First processor certificate of operation issued.
Jan 17, 2019 - First day of sales - 8.7 lbs sold for total of $75,000
Dec. 20, 2018 - First Testing lab awarded certificate of operation.
Dec.12, 2018 - First dispensary awarded certificate of operation - CY+ in Wintersville, OH
Dec. 3, 2018 - Patient & Caregiver Registry opens
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ORG Workshop at ComFest 2019
Brain cancer survivor
telling her story.
Ohio Rights Group - Ambassadors for a Cause - 2018
Industrial Hemp Farm Summit
November 20, 2018
Launch of the
To a crowd of around 50 people at the July 14th Saturday Salon sponsored by the Columbus Free Press,the ORG launched a new form of cannabis outreach called Ambassadors Program.
Answering audinece questions during the Q & A at the launch presentation.
This unique service seeks to educate healthcare professionals, patients, caregivers, families and the general public about cannabis. Using facts, science and research as its basis, the project will work collaboratively with industry leaders, communities, support groups, civic associations and churches, among others, to improve perception and gain acceptance.
Advisory Committee meetings for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. Activist gatherings. Hearings for lawsuits against the Ohio Department of Commerce. Presentations before nursing organizations. City councils considering bans or lifting them. And so much more. Representatives of the Ohio Rights Group have attended each and every one. On behalf of the Ohio Department of Commerce, submitted affidavits opposing delays in implementing the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
Toll Free Number
(844) 4INFOMJ or (844) 446-3665
Extra Step Assurance awarded a statewide contract to provide call center services for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
ORG Facebook page
"20 Years Ago Today, Sergeant Schweickart Taught the Band to Play" by Bob Fitrakis
"Cannabis and You" by Victoria Khan
"Save the Trees, Grow Hemp Please" by Kenny Schweickart
"10 Reasons to Support Home Grow in Ohio" by Mary Jane Borden
"Full Legal Coming to Ohio: An Interview with Ian James" by Mary Jane Borden
"Significant Steps in Ohio Marijuana Reform" This graphic can also be found on the ORG blog by clicking on the hemp stalk image to the left.
For the ORG, 2018 began with a look back. In celebration of 20 years since the Columbus Free Press’ reemergence in print, the widely read independent newspaper published a six article expose on the many aspects of marijuana, from medical to hemp to history. Entitled “2018 the Year of Cannabis,” the paper featured writers affiliated with the ORG.
Certified Medical Marijuana Courses
Cannabis Expertise is nationally accredited to provide live events with information, education, and answers to healthcare providers. Successful completion of the in-person or live webinar option for the two-hour or four-hour courses meet the CME requirements* for the initial Ohio Certificate to Recommend (CTR) application and the learner will earn 2.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.
Ohio Rights Group - Education is Key - 2017
From Cincinnati, to Euclid, to Huber Heights, to Lancaster, to Oberlin, Wellington and a number of other Ohio cities, ORG representatives attended various city council meetings at which they testified about medical marijuana. A few cities welcomed these establishments into their communities. Representatives of the ORG also attended meetings of the Advisory Committee established by HB 523 and provided written testimony to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy concerning forms and methods of cannabis consumption.
On May 23, 2017, Governor Kasich, Senators Portman and Brown, and other Ohio politicos were personally invited to to learn the science behind cannabis at the Ohio Medical Cannabis Education Symposium held at the Columbus Sheraton on Capitol Square, which is just blocks from their offices. Not one attended.
From May 31-June 2, 2017, the ORG had the honor of assisting with and attending the first ever Ohio Medical Cannabis Education Symposium held at the Sheraton on Capitol Square. This three-day event brought together the leading experts in the science of cannabis to train doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other practitioners in the medical aspects of the plant. The ORG also established a scholarship fund to help defray the conference fees of worthy attendees
Within just four weeks, the ORG conceptualized a scholarship program to send worthy medical practitioners to the Ohio Medical Cannabis Education Symposium, established an application form for it, held a fundraiser for the program at Townhall in Cleveland, and raised over $4,500. Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko served as the Keynote Speaker, with retired NFL star Eugene Monroe offering his thoughts as well. The fundraiser also included a raffle with stellar prizes.
Approximately 100 people attended the Townhall fundraiser.
Almost $5,000 raised in just two weeks
16 ORG scholarship winners attended Symposium
Ohio Rights Group - Success! - 2016
Mary Jane Borden presented Bill Schmitt, Jr. with a $500 check from the Stand Up 4 Your Rights PAC. Schmittt successfully ran two marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives in the cities of Bellaire and Roseville from his Sensible Bellaire PAC.
Delaware County Board of Elections on Election Night 2016
In collaboration with the Ohio Green Party, the ORG
helped place official election observers inside
20 county boards of election and 25 local
precincts on November 8th
The Stand Up 4 Your Rights PAC also made $500 contribution to Sensible Norwood.
Read a retrospective of 2016 as published in the Columbus Free Press here.
Even though the fall ballot in Ohio contained no statewide initiative, 2016 will be remembered nationwide as the year when a record number of legalization measures were put before and passed by voters. The states of California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts fully legalized cannabis, while Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota protected patients with new medical marijuana laws. A measure to broaden provisions of Montana’s existing program also passed by a wide margin.
Medical Marijuana Town Halls were held in Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati during late January and early February 2016 and hosted by Senators Kenny Yuko D-Euclid) and David Burke (R-Cincinnati). ORG members recruited over 50 patients who offered either written or spoken testimony at the Town Hall meetings.
Seven meetings of the 15-member Ohio Medical Marijuana Task Force were held at the Ohio Statehouse during February and March. Over 100 people offered testimony on a myriad of topics from patients to processing to production. PDFs of the entire testimony can be found here.
The March 10, 2016 testimony of Dr. G. Malik Burnett of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health was sponsored by the Ohio Rights Group Education Fund. A press conference was held prior to his testimony.
What began with a press conference and proceeded through four Town Halls and seven Taskforce meetings transformed into the introduction of House Bill 523 to the 131st Ohio General Assembly by Representative Phillip Huffman (R-Tipp City) on April 19, 2016. The bill was referred to a Select Committee on Medical Marijuana that heard testimony through May 6, 2016 when the bill was passed out of the Ohio House and forwarded to the Ohio Senate. The Senate in turn held two weeks of testimony ultimately passing the bill by a wide margin on May 23, 2016. Governor Kasich signed it into law on June 8, 2016 and it went into effect on September 8, 2016. Ohio Rights Group members testified before the Town Hall meetings, the Taskforce hearings, the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate, shepherding the legislation every step of the way.
Multiple Sclerosis patient Amanda Candow testifying at the April 27, 2016 hearing on HB 523.
After testimony for HB 523 at the Ohio Statehouse on April 27, 2016. Standing left to right: Victoria Khan, Mary Jane Borden and John Pardee. Front: Amanda Candow.
Few public activities motivate a legislature more than a pending ballot initiative. And that’s what Ohioans for Medical Marijuana (OMM) proposed. During February 2016, the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project came into Ohio with the intent of placing a citizen-led initiative on the fall ballot to legalize medical marijuana by a vote of the people. Ohio Rights Group members, past and present, led the effort and volunteered in all facets of the signature gathering process that resulted in the collection of an estimated 200,000 before the campaign was called off with the passage of HB 523 in May.
Launching Legislation. In January, the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives announced that they both would each hold hearings concerning medical marijuana. During late January and early February, Senators Dave Burke (R-Marysville) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) heard testimony from over 500 physicians, patients, law enforcement, and others at a series of Town Halls in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. The House convened a 15-member Medical Marijuana Task Force that held hearings at the Ohio Statehouse. Twenty or more people testified at each of the seven hearings that spanned February and March. To the right: Chair, Representative Kirk Schuring participates in a press conference announcing its formation with other Task Force members. For more details, click here.
Ohio Rights Group - Crossroads - 2015
The ORG ended 2015 with a GoFundMe campaign that raised $1,000 to give five families with sick children a happy holiday.
The best laid plans of mice and men … Who would have thought that a campaign with a $20 million budget, almost 800,000 signatures, a boatload of high powered talent and medical marijuana polling above 80% could crash and burn so badly. But that’s what happened Election Night 2015 when RO lost at with a 66-34% vote. Or did it? As seemingly typical with Ohio elections, indicators of flipped votes began rolling in shortly after the polls closed. The results were even deemed “implausible” by some. Legal marijuana in Ohio would have to wait for another year.
The ORG’s crowning achievement for 2015 was most certainly the “Save Someone You Love” video, produced to support of the Responsible Ohio ballot issue campaign. The video reached over 250,000, exceeded 3,000 likes and accrued almost 2,000 shares on Facebook.
Stand up 4 Your Rights. As it became clear that Responsible Ohio’s “Marijuana Legalization Amendment” would make the fall 2015 ballot, the Ohio General Assembly moved quickly to thwart it with a constitutional amendment of its own. House Joint Resolution 4 (HJR4), called Issue 2 during the election, was passed at the very last minute. From Introduction on June 16, 2015 to adoption on June 30, 2015, HJR4 took a mere two weeks to clear both chambers. In early September, the Ohio Rights Group came out strongly against Issue 2, one of the first groups to do so. It formed the Stand Up 4 Your Rights PAC to make the voting public aware of Issue 2 and its dire implications for future ballot measures.
Crossroads. With the emergence of the well-funded Responsible Ohio ballot initiative at the end of 2014, the ORG found itself at a crossroads. The Group initially came out against RO and the business model that branded it a “monopoly.” The ORG even filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against RO, but the complaint was dismissed by the Commission for lack of jurisdiction. Ironically, this dismissal affirmed the ORG’s long held belief - a point made in the complaint - that proposed amendments in the petitioning phase are not yet actual ballot issues and the rules that govern ballot issues are not applicable unless they have been certified by the Secretary of State for the ballot.
Who We Are and What We Stand for Matter. When arriving at a crossroads, what should an organization do? Take a good look at who it is and what it stands for and follow the truth. And that’s exactly what the ORG did. In the late spring, the ORG engaged RO and worked with them to incorporate artisanal growers and ombudsmen into their business model. The ORG then decided to endorse RO based on these precepts: 1.) we support any credible group and support any effort that advances the objectives of ending cannabis prohibition and expanding patient rights. 2.) the measure represented a good first step, and 3.) those in opposition to RO had failed to demonstrate a viable alternative. In sum, an organization committed to serving patients could do nothing less.
ORG sponsored Cannabis Crusades 5K Run/3K Walk at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
ORG Events in Support of RO
October 7, 2015 - League of Women Voters debate at Lorain County Community College
October 21, 2015 - Press Conference with with RO, Montel Williams & the ORG
October 26, 2015 - Amy Wolfinbarger at SSDP debate in Cincinnati.
October 29, 2015 - Press Conference with RO, Montel Williams and the ORG
Part 1 - MS patient Kay Keubler
Part 2 - Leanne Barbee
Part 3 - Tara Cordle & son Waylon
Part 4 - Montel Williams
Part 5 - Mary Jane Borden
Over 50 attendees heard three physicians speak at the ORG’s Ohio Medical Cannabis Conference at The Ohio State University on May 3, 2015. They discussed cannabis, the human endocannabinord system and implications for human health.
Ohio Rights Group - Highs and Lows - 2014
Powered by People. Utilizing NationBuilder – the same digital organizing technology utilized by President Obama, Mitt Romney and Scotland – the ORG activated a county- and region-based support network that has been praised by politicos. Over 8,000 supporters were segued into their respective counties and regions for grassroots organizing that operates under the leadership of “County Captains” and Regional Managers. The ORG put a similar structure in place on the campuses of several Ohio colleges or universities.
Ride with Larry. This poignant documentary follows Larry Smith, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, as rides his bicycle across his home state of South Dakota. What gives this retired police captain, successful bakery owner and bicycling enthusiast his vitality won’t surprise any of us. Sponsored by the ORG, Ride with Larry was aired in March 2014 at the prestigious Cleveland International Film Festival.
In Business for Business. Apeks Supercritical in Johnstown hosted the Ohio Rights Group for a tour of its facilities In January 2014 . The company designs, builds, tests, and refines subcritical and supercritical CO2 extraction systems that make cannabis oil concentrates for medicinal use. The demand for these products has soared in the states where therapeutic cannabis is now legal. These expanding markets mean that companies like Apeks can expand and bring new jobs to communities like Johnstown.
The ORG at Apex Supercritical January 2014.
Pioneers of the Children’s Movement. When Dr. Sanjay Gupta aired his first “Weeds” special on CNN in September 2013, a new movement was born. This program and its follow-up in March 2014 featured children who have experienced remarkable recoveries from conditions like intractable epilepsy as a result of a CBD-rich strain of medical marijuana. Some Ohioans made a difficult choice and moved to Colorado to see it could similarly help their gravely ill children. Others came to the ORG and led several Ohio counties where they staged events and collected thousands of signatures for the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment.
Lobbying for Legislation. In July 2014, the ORG engaged a professional lobbyist to advance medical marijuana legislation in the Ohio legislature. The lobbyist sought out potential sponsors for this legislation and advocated for the medical conditions to be covered under it.
Petition Progress! The goal of the ORG’s flagship project, the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment (OCRA), was placement of this citizen initiated constitutional amendment on the Ohio ballot by collectingmore than 305,591 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters. As of November 2014, approximately one third of this goal has been met:
150,000+ signatures collected
17,000 petitions purchased
10,000 petitions in statewide circulation
500 circulators fielding petitions
30 counties of 44 required counties met their 5% minimum
200,000 potential signatures remained in circulation.
More Media. The ORG has been widely featured in television, radio and print media, from NBC WTOV 9 in Steubenville, to Fox WXIX 19 in Cincinnati, to CBS WKBN 27 in Youngstown, to ABC WTVG 13 in Toledo and to CBS WBNS 10 TV in Columbus where the group was named “Newsmaker of the Week” in May. ORG representatives were featured on WOSU’s “All Sides with Ann Fisher” in January and on WTAM’s “Mike Trivisonno Show” in June. Notable print media included a cover story for the Lorain Chronicle and a multiple page, in depth exposé Columbus’ 614 Magazine. All told, the ORG has accrued millions of dollars of earned media in just two years.
Tax Exempt! In July and August, the ORG reviewed its operation to ensure organizational stability, financial integrity and compliance with federal and state law. The ORG received its determination letter from the IRS unchallenged in July, affirming the group’s status as a 501(c)(4) non-profit advocacy organization.
Meet & Greet. The ORG's Meet and Greet in November was a smashing success. Held at the Venice Club in Columbus, the event garnered almost 100 attendees over the course of the afternoon to network, hear presentations by various ORG leaders, stragegize for the future and basially enjoy one another's company during the holiday season.
You Decide Ohio. The ORG launched this project in September to ensure that the positions on cannabis held by candidates for state and federal offices are clear. By circulating clever memes through social media and detailing these positions through releases, ads and video, the divergent attitudes of these candidates are positioned against one another ensure voters know who works in their interest.
We Won! Engaging the Opposition. ORG representatives engaged the opposition in several debates and handily won them all. In February, they vied with the Drug Free Action Alliance in the nationally televised ABC Town Hall debate that aired in 50+ national media markets. In March, the ORG won similar contests at Ohio University’s standing room only Baker Center Theater and at the College of Wooster.
Video overview of the ORG 2013-2014.
ORG volunteers, County Captains, leadership and other committee members at the November 2014 Meet & Greet.
In November 2014, added to the ORG’s website informational pages for medical cannabis and industrial hemp.
The best-laid plans of mice and men ... Maybe it was burn out, too little time, too much to do, too big of a mountain, inadequate resources, philosophical differences or other efforts pending in the background. For whatever reason, the ORG’s push to get the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment on the 2014 ballot stalled mid-year when reality set in. The 100,000+ signatures collected solely by volunteers during the past year still fell far short of the required 305,591. ORG President John Pardee announced this shortfall on WTAM’s “Mike Trivisonno Show.”
Ohio Rights Group takes off - 2013
Established an Online Presence. Began using NationBuilder to integrate social media and parse volunteers by county and region.
Activated Volunteers. Activated most of Ohio's 88, each lead by a "County Captain" and each with its own Facebook page for recruiting and organizing. Formed affinity groups for veterans, students, parents of sick children hemp and law enforcement.
Certified the OCRA. Collected 1,388 signatures of registered Ohio voters in May 2013 and submitted them to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to obtain his certification of the OCRA. With the Ohio Ballot Board’s accompanying certification, the ORG was green-lighted to gather the 385,245+ signatures necessary for ballot placement.
Composed the OCRA. In January 2013, rewrote
OMCA Version 3 to add industrial hemp and called
the new ballot initiative the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment (OCRA). It would legalize the
medical and therapeutic uses of cannabis
and theindustrial use of hemp in Ohio.
Formed the ORG. Under new leadership with some former faces, filed restated non-profit Articles of Incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State
in January 2013 using the Ohio Rights Group
name secured with the March 2012 filing. Sat
a new board of directors.
Submission day! OCRA submited to the OAG..
Structured Finance. In September 2013, drafted a budget and assembled the documentation necessary to file IRS Form 1024 with the Internal Revenue Service to secure tax exempt status for the Ohio Rights Group under section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code. Established the Ohio Rights Group Educational Fund and secured a 501(c)(3) fiscal agent to receive tax deductible funds, which will be used for educational and charitable activities.
Earned Media. Garnered well over $1 million in earned media beginning in mid-April with a 10-minute WBNS “10-TV Presents” segment on medical marijuana in Ohio that featured ORG volunteers collecting signatures. The Cheryl Shuman tour accrued 35 media presentations in just eight days.
Toured the State. In October 2013, staged a six city tour of Ohio featuring Ohio native Cheryl Shuman in order to promote the OCRA with 15 different events held in eight short days and sponsored by seven cannabis-related corporations. Achieved the milestone of 30,000 collected signatures.
Former ORG President John Pardee and an MS patient on Dayton television news.
Set up Systems. Established a defined system to number and track petitions and crafted a Volunteer Agreement to enforce ORG polices concerning confidentiality, intellectual property and standards of contact. Enabled petition downloads that adhere to these standards.
Former ORG President John Pardee on the Russ Belleville Show
Secured Endorsements. Attained the endorsement of Ohio Rep. Robert Hagan at the Statehouse press conference to launch the OCRA. Garnered the endorsements of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, the Ohio Libertarian Party, former Cincinnati Police Chief Howard Rahtz, and most poignantly the famed Willie Nelson with this endorsement framed against his famous song, “You Were Always on My Mind.”
Ohio Medical Cannabis Association - 2012
OMCA2012 Version 3. In September 2011, a few short weeks after the OAG rejected Version 2, a new approach toward medical cannabis ballot initiatives was conceptaualized. The DEA's raid on Richard Lee’s Oaksterdam University in California inspired the idea that cannabis is a civil right, bringing to mind the Medical Cannabis Bill of Rights composed by Philippe Lucas for the Vancouver Island Compassion Society. The new ballot language was pared down to just 1,200 words focused on six fundamental rights in reference to the Bill of Rights in the Ohio Constitution, as well as on forming a commission to uphold and defend those rights. Version 3 was submitted to the Ohio Attorney General on January 12, 2012, and was certified by that office for statewide siganture gathering several days later. Although petitions for the initaitive were printed, no signatures were ever collected.
Due to a leadership shake up in early June 2012, it became necessary to change the signers on the Ohio Medical Cannabis Association's checking account with Chase Bank. But upon realizing that the PAC had the word 'cannabis' its name, the bank forced the closure of the account, jeopardizing the PAC's ability to comply with the reporting requirements of the Ohio Secretary of State, impeding its first amendment rights and disabling it from continuing to operate under that name.
Speaking at Comfest 2012, John Pardee introduced a new concept: United We Win!
In March 2012, the PAC name was changed to the Ohio Medical Cannabis Association. A short time later, the PAC filed articles of incorporation for the "Ohio Rights Group" to be an ancillary organization to the OMCA.
New leadership met in Oberlin in Novermber 2012 to move forward with a new ballot initiative under a new name, Ohio Rights Group.
The Beginnning - 2011-2012
OMCA2012 Version 2. During the summer of 2011, Version 1 of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 was shortened to 15,000 words, formatted as a ballot initiative and submitted to the Ohio Attorney General for certification to conduct a statewied signature gathering campaign. Unfortunately, the OAG rejected the measure, in part due to its length.
In September 2011, ORG Co-founder Chad Catlett wheels initial petitions for the OMCA2012 into the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
What is now the Ohio Rights Group began on January 6, 2010 when a group of five activists met at the home of Columbus attorney Bob Fitrakis and signed articles of incorporation to form Medical Cannabis of Ohio. The group laid low until the summertime when they decided to "hang out a shingle" to recruit those interested in fielding a statewide ballot initiative for medical marijuana. Sure enough, there were takers and the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 (Version 1) was born. A summary of this measure that lays out a detailed medical cannabis distribution system can be viewed here. It was re-purposed into a proposed legislative bill in 2015. In support of the proposed initiative, the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 PAC (OMCA2012) was registered with the Ohio Secretary of State on April 22, 2011.