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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2014

Supporters touting benefits, legalization of marijuana gather in downtown Toledo

BY MARISSA MEDANSKY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Linda Turvey, left, Eddie Currier, back center, and Mr. Currier’s wife, Heather Currier, of Northwest Ohio NORML, demonstrate outside One Government Center in Toledo. They passed out petitions Monday proposing an ordinance for the decriminalization of marijuana. Linda Turvey, left, Eddie Currier, back center, and Mr. Currier’s wife, Heather Currier, of Northwest Ohio NORML, demonstrate outside One Government Center in Toledo. They passed out petitions Monday proposing an ordinance for the decriminalization of marijuana.
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With signs bearing slogans such as “Hemp, Hemp, Hooray,” activists outside One Government Center urged Toledo voters to adopt an ordinance that would loosen the city’s drug laws.

About a dozen people showed support Monday for the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance, which — if certified for the ballot by the Lucas County Board of Elections and approved by voters in November — would decrease the penalties for possessing marijuana in Toledo. Efforts to promote the proposal have been spearheaded by the northwest Ohio chapter of NORML, a local group affiliated with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Supporters of the proposal, standing on the steps outside the government center, argued that Toledo’s current drug laws come down too harshly on nonviolent offenders and ignore marijuana’s potential medical benefits.

“We ruin innocent lives putting nonviolent drug offenders in overcrowded prisons,” said Sean Nestor, an activist and former City Council candidate, of those existing policies. Mr. Nestor explained previously that the ordinance spells marijuana with an “H” to coincide with the text of current municipal drug laws.

Sean Nestor, left, and Ken Sharp, right, of Northwest Ohio NORML, talk with Toledo Clerk of Council Jerry Dendinger. Sean Nestor, left, and Ken Sharp, right, of Northwest Ohio NORML, talk with Toledo Clerk of Council Jerry Dendinger.
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Mr. Nestor and four other key supporters entered One Government Center at about 10:40 a.m. to deliver a box of petitions with 13,000 signatures; 6,000 signatures are needed to get the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance on the ballot.

“There’s a lot of hard work in that box,” said Mary Smith, president of the local chapter of NORML, referring to stacks of petitions piled high inside.

If the Board of Elections deems that more than 6,000 of the 13,000 names are valid, the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance will appear on the November ballot, where it will require majority approval to pass. A Board of Elections employee said that Wednesday is the last day for voters to submit potential ballot initiatives for consideration.

Others present Monday morning included Kevin Spitler, the owner of the Toldeo Hemp Center, and Anita Rios, the Green Party candidate for Ohio governor. Some supporters waved signs at passing cars, and many wore marijuana-themed apparel. A dog wore a collar of fake, plastic marijuana leaves.

Contact Marissa Medansky at: mmedansky@theblade.com or 419-724-6368.



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