Joseph Stephen Zoretic December 25, 1968 to August 27, 2007

The Ohio Patient Network was quite saddened to learn of the untimely death of one of our founding members, Joe Zoretic. On Monday, August 27, 2007, Joe suffered a massive heart attack that resulted from an undiagnosed heart condition. Residing with his family in Lakewood, Ohio, he was 38 years old.

Joseph Stephen Zoretic was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 25, 1968.  He spent his elementary years in nearby Maple Heights and high school years in Parma. He worked for Sabre Enterprises of Cleveland for 13 years as a Cold Header / Machinist.

Joe met the love of his life, wife Dee Dee, in fall of 1989, and the two were married on November 27, 1992. They have one son Stephen who was born in 1993.

Joe became involved with the other ‘love’ of his life, drug policy, in 1992 via emerging online community bulletin board systems, now known as the Internet. Like many young people of his time, he realized the inherent inaccuracy and injustice behind the popular “Just Say No” programs of the 1980s that resulted in the arrest of his friends and their coercion into unnecessary drug treatment facilities.

Joe joined North Coast NORML in the early 1990s and participated in several marijuana-focused activities. The urgency behind his growing obsession with drug policy came into focus when Dee Dee fell at work, injuring her right arm. A very painful and incurable condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy quickly disabled her. The searing pain and onslaught of atrophy in her arm rendered conventional pain relievers inadequate. It was Joe who realized that cannabis could offer a solution, and he didn’t hesitate to make it available to her and to personally assume the consequences of her medicinal use.

The couple were arrested and prosecuted twice by the Lakewood Police, once in 2002 and once in 2005. As a result of the second bust on five counts of felony possession and cultivation of marijuana, Joe spent almost a month in jail. At the conclusion of both cases, however, they received no jail time and small fine of only $100, a groundbreaking sentence for its time. These busts propelled the couple into becoming well known, high profile medical marijuana activists. While Dee Dee became a skilled professional speaker on the subject, she credits Joe for the ideas and strategies that inspired her.

In early 2001, John Hartman of North Coast NORML introduced Joe and Dee Dee to a new group that was forming for Ohio patients on the Internet. Hartman asked the couple to check it out, and as a result, they became founding members of the Ohio Patient Network (OPN) and its lobbying arm, the Ohio Patient Action Network (OPAN).

Joe’s resumé of drug policy reform accomplishments is notable, although he rarely took personal credit for them:

· By composing a letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, secured a spot in the televised 2002 gubernatorial debate between sitting Governor Bob Taft and challenger Tim Hagan in which Dee Dee posed a poignant question to the candidates about medical marijuana.

· Pitched the venerable and wide-ranging Cleveland WMMS Morning Radio Show about medical marijuana and set up two hour-long interviews concerning their bust and the consequent plight of medicinal cannabis patients.

· Stopped a Driving while Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) ordinance from moving forward in Summit County by twice testifying before Summit County Council.

· Secured two prominent stories about medical marijuana and the Zoretic family in Cuyahoga County’s Scene Magazine, one of which featured a photograph of the family on the cover.

· Spoke at the Hempfest in Columbus and two of the five Million Marijuana Marches he attended in Cleveland.

· Served as a trustee of Ohio Cannabis Society and as its Director of Education.

· Was an active member of the Lakewood Democratic Club and a volunteer for several local political campaigns. With Dee Dee at this side, attended a number of high profile political events such as the annual Ohio Democratic Party dinners.

· From his jail cell after the 2005 bust, helped to form OPN’s lobbying arm, the Ohio Patient Action Network for which he served as its first Executive Director. He then became President of the organization in 2005 and Vice President in 2006.

Joe loved heavy metal music and played lead guitar in several rock bands. He was an avid amateur geologist, who scoured the local Metro Parks for rocks, minerals, crystals, and fossils with his father-in-law and young son. He was also an amateur herpetologist, collecting various snakes, reptiles, and amphibians. He maintained a large collection of sports cards and memorabilia from Cleveland teams like the Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers.

Joe is survived by wife Deirdre A. Zoretic; son Stephen Zoretic; parents Patricia and James Uthe; mother-in-law Carol Jones; and many other loving friends and family. He was preceded in death five months ago by his beloved father-in-law Ted Jones.

A memorial service for Joe will be held at Brecksville Reservation, Chippewa Road, Brecksville, OH, on Saturday, September 8, 2007, beginning at 4:20 pm.

The upcoming North Ohio NORML Harvest Fest Fundraiser on October 6-7, 2007, will feature a concert and tribute to Joe. It will be held at the Chippewa Valley Campground, 8809 Lake Road, Seville, OH, located near the intersection of I-71 and Rt. 224. For more information, please call 330-948-9333.

Tax-deductible donations may be made to the family and in honor of Joe to the 501(c)(3) Ohio Patient Network, P.O. Box 26353, Columbus, OH 43226.

Contributions may also be made by credit card and Paypal at the organization's Website

For more information about the Zoretics and medical marijuana, please contact the Ohio Patient Network at the aforementioned address or by telephone at 1-888-647-2843 or e-mail at