The headlines tell it all: “The Campaign To Decriminalize Pot,” “Marijuana As Medicine Will Continue,” “Marijuana Decision Does Not Solve Issue,” “Ohio Group Writes Bill Proposal On Medicinal Marijuana,” “Marijuana Use Gets A Boost.” These summarize a few of the stories about marijuana that appeared in Ohio’s newspapers this year according to the Media Awareness Project (MAP) of DrugSense at

Just three years ago, the headlines read: “Marijuana Harvest Brings Out The Authorities,” “Police, Marijuana-sniffing Dog Sweep Through Madison High,” “Deputies Arrest Man after Finding 5,000 Marijuana Plants,” and “Medical Marijuana Law Dumped.” What happened? Why has reporting focused on law enforcement shifted to reporting focused on medicine?

A strange thing happened on the way through the millennium. The media got it. A quiet revolution has occurred in the way Americans and others worldwide view this much-maligned plant.

Behind this shift lie facts like these, again from MAP:

  • A study of the four patients still receiving U.S. government grown marijuana under the now-discontinued Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program shows no health problems attributable to long-term, regular cannabis use.

  • Ohio’s neighbor to the north, Canada, has become the first nation in the world to allow people suffering from chronic illnesses to legally grow and use marijuana. Later this year, several patients will receive marijuana grown specifically for the Canadian government.

  • A very recent USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll revealed that 34% of Americans - the largest percentage in a generation - want marijuana prohibition ended. The Pew Research Center for People and the Press found last February that 73% believe physicians should be able to prescribe marijuana as medicine. If the public gets it as witnessed by the surveys and if the media gets it as witnessed by the headlines, then why don’t those who supposedly listen closely to the public and the media get it, namely legislators?

Last winter, a group of patients, caregivers, and activists from all over Ohio got together on the Internet to debate this point. From this meeting, the Ohio Patient Network (OPN) was born.

The group initially sought to change the cannabis laws in Ohio as they pertain to patients. They at least wanted the medical necessity defense that was “dumped” in 1997 restored. A bill was composed and presented personally to several state legislators. Their minds seemed unmovable. But one common thread emerged: legislators needed to hear from more of their constituents.

OPN changed its focus. “We began to see that building our organization was the key to changing minds at the Statehouse. To make the law better for patients in Ohio,” said OPN President and Multiple Sclerosis patient, John Precup. “If legislators can see that the medical cannabis issue has a large, vocal constituency, they’ll be more apt to listen to the facts and change the law.”

Since then, the group has reengineered its Web site, created communication materials, set up committees, and reinvigorated its legislative effort. Membership is growing.

But that’s not all OPN intends to do. “The Ohio Patient Network provides networking, education, and support to patients in Ohio who use cannabis therapeutically,” said Precup. “In addition to changing the law, we hope to offer patient outreach and support services and maybe even educational seminars throughout Ohio on the medical marijuana issue.” “No patient who uses cannabis in Ohio should feel alone,” he added.

Those interested in the medical marijuana issue or in joining OPN should visit the group’s Web site at They can also be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 26353, Columbus, OH, 43226.

Mary Jane Borden is a marketing and communications consultant who specializes in drug policy. She holds the APR certification from the Public Relations Society of America and is a past president of the Columbus Chapter of the Association for Women in Communications and its affiliated Columbus Matrix Foundation. Borden is co-founder of the Ohio Patient Network.

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