Pot legislation expected after Colorado legalization

November 8, 2012

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

First came marijuana as medicine. Now comes legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Voters in Colorado and Washington passed referendums legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but the drug is still banned under federal law.

Colorado’s Proposition 64 to the state’s constitution makes it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess marijuana and for businesses to sell it.

State Representative Dr. Terry Johnson (R-89/90) said another attempt will be made to legalize marijuana in Ohio.

“There is a movement in Ohio to legalize medical marijuana, and there’s probably a great deal of sentiment in certain sectors of the state to even legalize recreational marijuana,” Johnson said. “I am certainly not in favor of it. Marijuana is not good for your health if you’re smoking it. The smoke is bad for your lungs; medicinal purposes are not really proven. There are many ways to take care of different problems besides marijuana. I don’t see any need for medical marijuana, recreational use of marijuana. I think that is something that is part of the drug culture and part of the addiction problem that we have, and I have absolutely no use for that at all.”

Mahoning Valley State Representative Bob Hagan will be making his third attempt at legalizing marijuana in Ohio, but for medicinal purposes only. Hagan does not support using marijuana for recreational purposes, although he does intend to introduce legislation in January hoping to legalize the drug for medicinal use.

“I watched both my parents die on morphine and it is not very comforting,” Hagan said. “If my mother or my father had asked me for marijuana, regardless of whether it was legal, I would have tried to find it for my parents. I would ask anybody anywhere if they wouldn’t do the same thing if they were suffering and watching their parents die.”

In addition to serving in the state legislature, Johnson is medical director for Compass Community Health/The Counseling Center.

“We’re very suspicious and skeptical of any kind of legalization of marijuana,” Ed Hughes, CEO of The Counseling Center, said. “Marijuana is an absolute gateway drug for addiction to other drugs. We haven’t done any of our own research in terms of what happens with legalization or medical marijuana, but the Drug Free Alliance in Ohio, a couple of years ago, did some research, and it all came out pretty negative along the idea of what legalization led to.”

Hughes said more availability of the drug in the community means that it will make its way to the youth population.

“Again, what we see is that the use of nicotine, then marijuana, then to alcohol and harder drugs, is just a very straight path.”

Johnson agrees with Hughes’ assessment.

“A lot of the people I treat with addiction problems, marijuana is one of the things that is in their system. And I insist that in getting clean and getting sober is getting rid of that particular drug, like alcohol or anything else,” Johnson said. “As a matter of fact, when I was the (Scioto) County Coroner, there was a preponderance of people who were either drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana, as part of the cocktail of drugs that killed them.”

In total, six states are considering marijuana initiatives. NBC News reports that 17 states and the District of Columbia already have laws allowing for the medical use of marijuana, according to the National Council of Legislatures.

Admitting it may be difficult to pass the proposal in this legislature, Hagan says he still wants to try and thinks it would be critical to have public hearings on the issue. Hagan says previous studies have shown that about 70-percent of Ohioans approve of the medical legalization of marijuana.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com