Ohio Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Bill
After nearly twenty years of trying, backers of a bill to allow medical marijuana in the Buckeye state are celebrating a historic vote by the Ohio Legislature, and is headed to the governor.
Democratic Senator Kenny Yuko has been pushing for medical marijuana legislation for years, and he was given the opportunity to preside over the Senate for the historic vote.
The slim 18-15 victory came without the support of Republican Senate president Keith Faber, who says he had a lot of concerns about the plan, though it had been backed by Republican leaders in the House.
“I still have concerns about allowing marijuana use for things that are not scientifically tested and supported by it," said Faber. "Look, if it was just about kids and epilepsy or cancer patients, as I said before, I don’t know anybody who’d be opposed to that.”
But several Republican senators did vote to pass the plan. Senator Bill Seitz says he thinks states should control this issue. And he likes the fact that the bill calls for the federal government to reclassify marijuana and allow more study on it.
“Nobody with a straight face could actually claim marijuana is more harmful than cocaine yet marijuana is on schedule one and cocaine is on schedule two," said Seitz. "Now if that isn’t nuts, I don’t know what is.”
The Republican sponsor of the bill, Senator Dave Burke, is also a pharmacist. He says he’s remains skeptical about medical marijuana but says his constituents want it. And if it’s going to happen, he says he prefers this bill over a potential ballot issue this fall.
“A ballot initiative can’t change," said Burke. "And the ballot initiative that occurred in issue three and may arise in November totally excludes the general assembly from any changes. I hope it’s perfect if that’s the route people go. I do know humans, by their very character, are imperfect.”
The argument that a proposed constitutional amendment that might be on the ballot this fall wouldn’t allow change might push some to back the legislature’s plan. But it could push some away. Cincinnati resident Nicole Scholten’s 12 year old daughter, Lucy, suffers from seizures. She says, as a mother, she’s incredibly pleased the Ohio Legislature passed this bill but when it comes to choosing between it and the plan that could be on the ballot this fall, she has concerns.
“We are going to have to pay attention into the future as regulations are set up, as future shifts in the general assembly take place and recognizing what is given can be taken away," said Scholten.
Aaron Marshall is with the Marijuana Policy Project, the national group that’s working to put a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio on the ballot. He says this legislative bill falls short.
“Because there are a lot of Ohioans who were left behind by the plan. Folks with muscular dystrophy, there’s folks with autism, there’s folks with muscle spasms, folks with Huntington’s disease. All of those conditions were not covered by the legislation that was just passed," said Marshall. "There’s also some basic patient right issues that were not addressed by this legislation. Patients do not have the right to smoke medical marijuana under the legislation that was just passed nor do they have the right to grow at home.”
Marshall says his group’s proposal would allow those options. He says the effort to get the roughly 305,000 valid signatures needed to put the issue on the fall ballot will continue, regardless of whether Governor John Kasich signs the bill into law.