Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana gather on Sunday - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Hemp supporters gather on Fountain Square

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana and industrial hemp in Ohio took to Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati Sunday night.

The idea was to raise awareness of the Ohio Rights Group's petition to make it legal.  They're looking to get the issues on the ballot in the election in 2014.

"It's vitally important for our state's economy as well as the entire country," said Cheryl Shuman, founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, and medical marijuana user.

The debate over legalizing marijuana for medicine and industrial hemp has reached Cincinnati.

"We have citizens that are sick and dying every day for lack of having access to this amazing plant, which has amazing therapeutic properties.  Our farmers need to be able to be competitive to be able to grow industrial hemp," said John Pardee, president of the Ohio Rights Group.

Supporters spent Sunday rallying for the issue, and signing petitions to get it on the ballot next year.  But, those working to keep drugs off the street say it's up to the experts, not voters.

"This shouldn't be up to a voter initiative, or the general public.  Aspirin, penicillin, pain killers, we don't put those to the general public to vote on," said Mary Haag, president of Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati.

Marijuana is known as a Schedule I drug, according to the DEA's website.  Some other drugs also found on that list are heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

"What we educate on is the harms and the consequences that come with marijuana that we know right now.  Changes in the brain, the potential for addiction, that's why it's right now, a Schedule I drug," added Haag.

That's one thing supporters say needs to change.

"Right now, it's on the same schedule as heroin.  Heroin kills people every day.  Cannabis has never killed anybody.  It's not dangerous," Pardee told FOX19.

Haag added that if there is a belief that marijuana can be used as a medicine, it needs to go through the full FDA testing and regulation process before any decision is made.

The Ohio Rights Group's website says they've got more than 30,000 signatures, but need to top 385,000 to get it on the ballot.

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