On an unforgettable day in November 2012, a handful of activists met to reconsider cannabis ­related ballot initiatives in Ohio. They saw a new path forward in the framework of the defunct Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment, but something was missing. Then, one of them rose and proclaimed one word, Hemp! He penned his inspiration into “the right to produce and sell non ­psychoactive Cannabis, also known as hemp, for industrial use including, but not limited to, paper, fuel, foods, building materials and clothing.” That was a game changing moment for what is now the Ohio Rights Group and its quest to place the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment on the ballot. The addition of hemp – really the reunification of the whole Cannabis plant – expanded the team of supporters to include farmers, manufacturers, distributors and environmentalists alike. This is because hemp can be used to make almost anything that is currently comprised of cotton, timber or petroleum, and do so in an earth ­friendly way. From biodegradable plastics, to biomass energy, to food and beverages, to hygiene products and to medicine, paper and textiles, hemp is truly one plant with many uses. Both hemp and marijuana belong to the same plant species Cannabis Sativa. Generally, cannabis for medical or therapeutic use is derived from the plant’s flowers or leaves where the THC that produces the high resides. THC in the stalks and seeds, from which industrial products are manufactured, falls below 0.3 percent, rendering hemp non­psychoactive. Unfortunately, because of psycho­activity, the federal government has placed the entire plant under Schedule I of Controlled Substances Act, which strictly limits production. However, in February, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law, which contained a provision to permit universities to research and grow industrial hemp. Even so, the draconian restrictions imposed by Schedule 1 prevent the U.S. from fully realizing the plant’s many uses. While there is no official market estimate for hemp­based products in the U.S., projections from the Hemp Industries Association place total U.S. retail value in 2012 at nearly $500 million. Included in this number are sales for body care, clothing and textiles. In addition, Ohio’s agricultural, manufacturing and distribution infrastructures form the key ingredients of growth markets. Food and agriculture are among Ohio’s top industries, contributing $105 billion each year to the state’s economy. Ohio ranks 4th in the U.S. for the number of manufacturing plants; manufacturing is the state’s second largest employer. Logistically, at $907 billion, the state places third in the country for the total value of inbound and outbound shipments. Ohio has the fourth largest rail system. Ohio’s combined farm, manufacturing and distribution muscle dwarfs that in any state where Cannabis is legal, including Michigan. Moreover, according to figures from the Buckeye Forest Council, the oil and gas industry has injected nearly 8 billion gallons of toxic waste into Ohio’s underground over the last 34 years. Hemp can rebuild and recondition these soils by replacing organic matter and providing aeration through its extensive root system. Environmental revitalization can be reborn. The Ohio Rights Group has carried the potential for hemp in Ohio to applause from a variety of eager new audiences. The group recently sponsored and spoke at conferences for the Ohio Farmer’s Union, the Ohio Ecological Farm and Food Association and the Libertarian Party of Ohio. PBS QUEST science, funded by the National Science Foundation, reported from the Plant Kingdom Snackery and Bakery about the value of and demand for hemp seed foods in an extensive piece that included a reference to the amendment. The enthusiastic reception given to hemp and Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment has proven to be more than the game changer vocalized on an unforgettable day in November 2012. The amendment’s hemp clause has captured the imagination of legions of Ohioans who are envisioning their roles in the state’s revitalization: farmers, manufacturers, distributors and, yes, environmentalists. While these may seem like divergent communities, they reflect the “United We Win” mantra of the Ohio Rights Group, which seeks to unleash the potential of this one plant with many uses upon passage of the amendment. Hemp stands again to make a November day ­ Election Day – unforgettable both for the ORG and for Ohio. The Ohio Rights Group: (http://www.ohiorightsgroup.org/) The Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment: (http://www.ohiorightsgroup.org/ohio­cannabis­rights­amendment­full­text) How to volunteer: (http://www.ohiorightsgroup.org/county_volunteer) Donate to ORG: (https://ohiorightsgroup.nationbuilder.com/donations)

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