January 23, 2016
by Cara Monigold
Almost two years to the day I was having a discussion with a friend about weed, talking about how harmless it seemed from the years of experience in our circle of friends. The idea of cannabis as a real medicine wasn’t something I considered though until someone I knew was self-medicating his bipolar disorder with cannabis. The change I saw in him, and his improved quality of life, sold me.
I’ve spent over 16 years in the healthcare field. During my time working in long term acute care, spending time with patients, rehabbing them to go home or move on to a different stage, I often struggled with how to handle their other challenges. Whether it was a lack of appetite, proper nutrition, quality of life, pain control or their cancer treatment, it was not easy watching it weigh on the patients and their families. It's heartbreaking to watch them suffer. I knew there had to be something else, something better.
A close contact of my friend was living in Colorado, for years, working in the medical cannabis industry. During a conversation, he talked about Ohio as the next state to legalize – I was floored. Where the hell had I been? I had heard nothing of this talk here. A quick Google search landed me on the homepage of the Ohio Rights Group. I jumped right in – volunteering as the Captain of my county, and then as a Regional Manager.
I attended my first Medical Marijuana Conference that year, Patients Out of Time, in Portland, Oregon. It was my first opportunity to get an in depth understanding of the plant, its potential, and the people who have been working in the industry for years. The plant's healing properties fascinated me – I was a nerd for it. Following the conference, I became a Cannabis Educator through the American Cannabis Nurses Association. Even after all I’ve learned about cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, I still find something new every day.
The 2015 election was a difficult one for me, personally. ResponsibleOhio, also known as Issue 3, presented a proposal that at its core would have furthered something that was now a big part of my everyday focus. While I won’t dwell on the problems I had with their proposal, and the struggle I had with saying no to something that I felt was needed for patients, it was not a path I could support. Instead of just saying no, I decided to dedicate my time and energy to a new reform group, Ohioans to End Prohibition (OTEP), that proposed an amendment I could get behind. Their Cannabis Control Amendment had almost everything I wanted for our state – a healthy home grow option, caregivers serving the needs of patients on a smaller scale, a comprehensive list of qualifying patient conditions, retail stores, and quality testing. OTEP was run by activists, not businessmen, who held close to the same ideals as my own. I served on the petitioner’s committee, helping out with volunteer coordination and education on the benefits of cannabis as a medicine and the endocannabinoid system.
The 2015 election led to a lot of disagreements on how Ohio should legalize, and a lot of divisiveness in the Ohio cannabis community. Activists who once worked together now found themselves on different sides of the battlefield, fighting adamantly on our positions about the right way to legalize. It got ugly for some. But we were activists after all – we’re extremely passionate people! Passion runs in our blood, fighting for those who may not be able to fight for themselves. Some minds were changed, others stayed the same – but so what? It was Ohio’s first shot at legalization – and some firmly believed it was our one and only chance for the foreseeable future.
We all know what happened on November 3rd. The worst part for me was the fraction the campaign caused between good, hardworking activists, who regardless of their stance on what was proposed in 2015, all had our reasons for getting involved, some extremely personal. No one was wrong.
After the election, I was approached about UnitedOhio. I thought to myself – don’t we have enough cannabis reform groups in Ohio? Do we really need another? Well, for those of you who may be asking the same question – that’s not what we’re about.
UnitedOhio, for me, is about all Ohio cannabis groups, and our community, coming together to set our differences and our pasts aside, to be a loud and strong voice for patients. Instead of deciding who should lead, we all come together with a democratic leadership format, so that we all have a say.
We put patients first by creating a wish list for them – an absolute of what we collectively feel is necessary for proper and full access to medicinal cannabis. When working with state legislators, we want them a have clear and consistent message about what is important for patients. We want to assure that any group working towards cannabis reform in Ohio can get direct feedback from all groups in the state in a streamlined format.
I look at UnitedOhio as a large loud lobbying group for the patients, bottom line. We believe that by bringing together such a diverse group of experienced activists in one group, we can do more for the patients of Ohio if we are united than if we are working independently. Time is of the essence for patients and their families – and that is why we put patients first.
#UnitedOhio Commitee Member