Marijuana leaves and 420 2024

Happy 420!!! There is much to celebrate this year. Full legal adult use in Ohio! Home grow! Possible rescheduling, better still descheduling! Reproductive rights! Ohio accomplished much in 2023 that we can crow about in 2024.

But we didn’t do it alone. They say many hands make light work. It takes a village. In truth, to arrive where we are today required thousands of our fellow citizens coming together over a span of 50+ years. What we did last year, began in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and so forth.

And, we climbed proverbial mountains to get there. The tears. The fears. The heartbreaks. The impediments. The injustices. Yet, here we are, still standing, better than we ever were before.

Despite countless obstacles, we should still show gratitude for what we have and what we gained. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to us, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to our advancement, we should include all things in our gratitude.”

This admonition embraces a legion of compatriots: those who felt the harsh blunt of the law, but stood up for justice anyway. Those who worked tirelessly for little or no pay. Those who awakened every day and asked, what can I do? And those who began journey with us, but were unable to finish it. To each, we are grateful.

But let me be more specific. Gratitude goes out to:  

Tom Haren, Spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Ohio. If a better speaker for the cannabis movement, and particularly ballot initiatives, existed, he or she would be impossible to find. Haren showed himself to be knowledgeable, thoughtful, intelligent, well spoken, and insightful. No hyperbole. No factual errors. He knew his movement, his supporters, his platform, his mission, and his story. He deserves an all-around A+ in PR.

Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (RMLA). From the public’s perspective, this team had only one contact – Tom Haren – which meant that it didn’t go into the weeds of multiple spokespeople and divergent messaging. The Issue itself was the news, unlike another infamous initiative that relied on gimmicks, controversy, and scare tactics, all of which led to a resounding loss at the ballot box. Kudos to the RMLA for continuously taking the high road … and winning!

Large RMLA Funders. The unsung heroes of any ballot campaign are those who fund it. These companies jeopardize valuable resources that could otherwise support their businesses in an industry plagued by IRS 280-E induced razor thin margins. While we hate to see anyone go bankrupt for our benefit, these industry operators willingly took that risk. We extend our gratitude to North Coast Testing Laboratories, FarmaceuticalRx, Curaleaf, Pure Ohio Wellness, Cresco Labs, Jushi, Asencion Biomedical, Appalachian Pharm Processing, Rivera Creek, and host of other Ohio cannabis industry players.

Small RMLA Funders. Fundraising often focuses on large donations, and even though these dollars are foundational to accomplishing the task, the small individual contributions point to the power of the project. These $10, $20, and $50 sums can add up to thousands and even exceed monies emanating from well-heeled funders. So, this Thank You extends to individuals like Julie Burns, Tim Meyer, Thomas Anderson, and hundreds of others who helped pass Issue 2 through their small donations of whatever amount.

Ohio Cannabis Activists. During prior ballot campaigns, some Ohio cannabis afficionados regrettably became contentious, vitriolic, and disruptive. Fortunately, this time around with Issue 2, Ohio activists displayed their best side, especially when they showed up in force during December to thwart a General Assembly hell bent on dissecting the RMLA. With much gratitude, the RMLA ballot language has remained intact and is being rolled out by the Department of Commerce as intended in the initiative.

Libertarians and Democrats in the General Assembly. In the face of intense gubernatorial pressure and a recalcitrant Ohio Senate, the Libertarians and Democrats in the Ohio House held their line and kept Issue 2’s ballot language intact. In Rep. Jamie Callender’s words, “I want to make sure that here in this chamber, the People's House, that we carry out the will of the people — and the people have spoken." A special thank you goes out to Rep. Callender.

Reproductive Freedom. Did the presence of this proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot as Issue 1 help pass adult use marijuana as Issue 2? Possibly. But the solid favorable vote on both initiatives during the fall election showed Ohio to be the progressive blue state that it has always been. It is a joy to now see Ohio carrying the same color on U.S. maps as other states that respect bodily autonomy, freedom, and liberty.

Ohio Voters. The biggest thank you goes out to the 2,183,735 Ohio voters (57%) who cast their ballots last November to fully legalize marijuana; to the 2,186,965 Ohio voters (57%) who passed a constitutional amendment to protect reproductive rights in that same election; and to the 1,769,482 Ohio voters (57%) who, in an August special election, chose to retain the long standing 50%+1 margin for passing constitutional amendments. Let us not forget that this $20,000,000 summer election was specifically designed to obstruct those rights by raising the passage threshold to 60%. It might have worked. Voters, however, didn’t buy the snake oil sold by the Ohio General Assembly or the executive branch. Whether it was Secretary of State LaRose’s disingenuous attempt to prevent “nefarious outside interests from meddling with the Ohio Constitution” (when in reality it was “100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our Constitution”) or the Ohio Senate’s error ridden anti-marijuana manifesto, voters rejected their schemes. For that, we are eternally grateful.

The OGs. The “old guys” or “original gangsters” or “old goats (greatest of all time),” or whatever you call those who were foundational to the marijuana (cannabis) movement, deserve a large measure of gratitude. Dare I say, we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. We stand tall on their shoulders. Who were the OGs of cannabis reform in Ohio? We must harken back at least 50 years or more to identify them. Their reform efforts, as we know them today, began in the late 1960s, some say with the Summer of Love in 1967. Hippies and the blacks angered then President Richard Nixon, who launched War on Drugs in 1971 against them after passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA). Subsequent administrations during the “Just Say No” 1980s and 1990s piled on a myriad of escalating anti-drug laws, sparking the drug policy reform movement. OGs like Columbus media mogul Richard M. Wolfe (who spearheaded decriminalization in 1975), Cleveland-based philanthropist Peter B. Lewis (who funded statewide ballot initiatives from 2002 until his death in 2012), or Bob Fitrakis and Kenny Schweickart (who fielded Ohio’s very first marijuana legalization ballot initiative in the mid-1990s) – and of course, many others – laid the foundation for Issue 2’s passage in November 2023. One of the most iconic OGs, Michigan’s John Sinclair, recently passed away. For possession of just two joints In 1969, Sinclair received a 10-year prison sentence and served over two years in jail. High profile concerts staged in 1971 to free him sparked the first marijuana protest event in 1972, today called the Ann Arbor Hash Bash, now in its 53rd year.

The Waldos. Kief. Herb. Mary Jane. ZaZa. Wouldn’t you know that my name would be mentioned in the first line of a USA Today story about 420 and its founders, the Waldos. No discussion of OGs would be complete without them. While April 20th aka 420 has become a ubiquitous annual cannabis holiday, its origins can be found 50 years ago – along with the War on Drugs, the CSA, and the Hash Bash. Although uniquely California, the Waldo’s story of cannabis inspired code words, pranks, and “safaris” has been repeated by countless teens in cities and small towns nationwide. Paraphrasing their words (check out this video with Jimmy Kimmel), “In 1971, you could go to jail for 10 years for having a joint [think John Sinclair]. Marijuana created a brotherhood among us.” That’s the power of the plant and 420 in a nutshell. Cannabis brings people together with laughter, friendship, good humor, and gratitude.

So today on 4/20 as we light that joint (smoking is now legal in Ohio), fire up that dab, chew on that gummy, draw on that vape pen, eat that chocolate bar, taste that tincture, or apply that patch, let’s be grateful for the ballot initiatives, funders, legislators, voters, and OGs who helped us climb mountains and bring us to the fully legal cannabis marketplace that we enjoy today, remembering with gratitude what John Sinclair and a host of others had to endure to get here.


P.S. The aforementioned forms of cannabis should be legal to consume in Ohio on 4/20. Registered medical marijuana patients in Ohio can purchase them at their favorite dispensary on that date. These forms for purchase by adults should be on dispensary shelves in September or October.

P.S. This article can be considered Part 2 of the November 2023 Free Press article.


Mary Jane Borden is a best-selling author, skilled graphic artist, insightful analyst, and award-winning cannabis activist from Westerville, Ohio. During her 40-year career in drug policy, she co-founded seven cannabis-oriented groups, co-authored four proposed constitutional amendments, lobbied for six medical marijuana bills, penned over 100 Columbus Free Press articles, and has given hundreds of media interviews. She is one of the Courage in Cannabis authors, with articles in both editions. Her artwork can be viewed at and she can be reached at maryjaneborden@