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Monday, December 7, 2015

Toledo’s Success, and Responsible Ohio Fail This Year: With Kevin Spitler and Sean Nestor - by Ben Horner

     Stepping into the Toledo Hemp Center and being greeted by super-activist Kevin Spitler, was like being reacquainted with a long lost relative. I brought in a couple dozen blankets for another one of Kevin’s blanket drivers for the homeless, which donated over 665 pounds of clothing this year. Mr. Spitler has been doing these for years. I fist met Kevin while participating in a meeting with other dispensary owners in an organization that many of us used to belong to. Kevin left Kalamazoo and returned to Toledo to take care of his mom.

     “When my mother was sick from cancer in Toledo I was driving back and forth from Kalamazoo to Toledo a lot. And I mean a lot lot. During the time I spent in Toledo I started networking with many like-minded people in the marijuana movement. That’s when I came across NW Ohio NORML. I ended up attending one of their meetings and they were discussing what they wanted to accomplish as an organization. See they were brand new. I brought up all the initiatives we have been doing in Michigan. I said to them how come no one in Ohio does local initiatives? I was confused. I said to them you could put anything on the ballot, anything you want. That’s when issue 1 was initially created. In my eyes the movement was inspired by my mother’s fight. As more cities follow Toledo’s path I know my mama is smiling down on me.”

     September 15th the people of Toledo passed the Sensible Marijuana Ordinance. Sean Nestor, Campaign Manager for Sensible Toledo, popped into the Toledo Hemp Center when I was there and he gave us the inside scoop on how this was accomplished.

      “Just under 6,000, collect 13,000,” explained Sean Nestor. “Collecting signatures was one of the easiest jobs  to do.  It was all done with volunteers. We knew Kevin and trusted him, so the Toledo Hemp center became a drop off point. “

     “The petition changed the penalties for marijuana charges in Toledo. We reduced the penalties under the city law for possession or cultivation 200 grams or less, making these charges a 5th degree misdemeanor. It’s what we call a decrim or decriminalization petition.”

     After this big victory in Toledo, many people in Ohio and around the country believed that Ohio would be the next state to legalize marijuana for adult use. As we now know, this did not happen, and blow back from those who opposed a state monopoly successfully passed an anti-monopoly incentive. This event has radically changed how big money investors in the new emerging cannabis industry move forward with their agenda.     

     “Everyone from Sensible Toledo are against issue 3. We decided we wanted legalization on our terms, ” explained Kevin. Using the network of Spitler has developed at the Toledo Hemp Center, he lead the grassroots resistance movement.

     “They really wanted to completely take over the market. From my experience working local caregivers when I was running my dispensary owner, I find that the economy works much better that way. People spend that money in local businesses. It wasn’t real legalization, they just called it that. If you grow your own and transport it out of your house, you are busted.”

     Sean Nestor added enthusiastically, “They spent 25 million hoping to have a full monopoly, and they lost. It doesn’t take that much to win.”

     Ohioans to end Prohibition is currently circulating a petition to fully legalize cannabis in Ohio, working with local volunteers. They have up to five years to collect the signatures. Interested parties can connect with the grassroots petition drive. Check out their website: www.legalizeohio2016.org

     Recently, the folks from Responsible Ohio have looked into forming a partnership with grassroots organizations and are considering another, less monopolistic petition. Kevin Spitler will continue to educate people about the benefits of using hemp as a medicine at the Toledo Hemp Center. Kevin has done community cookouts, blanket drives for the homeless, and many other outreach programs.






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