AKRON, Ohio--The effort to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio is gaining momentum as the group behind that effort works to gather more than 300,000 signatures to get the question in front of voters.
John Pardee, the President of the 'Ohio Rights Group,' said they already have about 45,000 verified signatures on petitions with 6,000 additional petitions in circulation.
If approved by voters, the 'Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment' would not only legalize medical marijuana, it would also establish a commission to regulate it.
Pardee said he was not always an advocate for medical marijuana but an accident involving his son changed all of that.
"My son was almost killed in a car accident," said Pardee, explaining, "he survived, but pain is going to be his lifetime companion. He left the hospital with a long list of prescriptions for opiate painkillers."
Pardee said when his son first started using cannibus for his pain, he became concerned but as he became more educated about medical uses for marijuana he started to believe it was among the safest pain management options his son had that he could use for the rest of his life.
Pardee now believes medical marijuana could have also helped his ailing father who suffered from Parkinson's disease and can be a help to veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as well as a long list of other ailments.
His organization recently held a petition drive at the University of Akron where they collected about 300 signatures and is holding panel discussions in the Akron area and in Solon over the next two weeks trying to share more information about the proposed amendment.
A new Qinnipiac University Poll released on Monday says that almost 90% of the people they questioned in Ohio would be in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.
Akron Police Chief James Nice is not among them.
Nice, whose law enforcement career includes work in Los Angeles where medical marijuana is legal, said he has seen how it can be abused.
"There are the marijuana clinics and it doesn't matter who you are or how healthy you are; you could go in, walk in ten minutes, have a prescription and get marijuana and there's just nothing good that comes from marijuana use," said Nice.
Those behind the legalization effort in Ohio said the concentration of THC, the chemical that produces the euphoric sensation in marijuana, is far less in the medical marijuana.
Pardee said smoking it actually burns up much of the medical benefits. He advocates vaporizing it or distilling it down so that it can be administered as drops or in other butters or oils.
Kelly Mehlmann of Akron is among those who have become involved in the effort to legalize marijuana after seeing a young boy suffer repeated seizures that she believes can be relieved with far fewer of the existing drugs if he were treated with the drops.
"He has been on so many medications and like I just keep thinking he's going to be sixteen and not be able to function because of how many drugs he's been put on while he was supposed to be developing when he has the medical marijuana and it could cut back and just help him," said Mehlmann.
Mehlmann denies using marijuana as a recreational drug herself and says she only advocates for the legalization of marijuana for legitimate medical purposes.
The Qinnipiac University Poll suggests that a majority of Ohioans believe marijuana is on par with or even less dangerous than alcohol.
Chief Nice believes they are both bad and two wrongs do not make a right.
What happens in Ohio could be left up to the voters later this year.