When Ohio voters outright rejected legalization of marijuana in November 2105, a group almost immediately began work on another issue for this November’s (2016) general election. That group was Ohioans for Medical Marijuana and they have been at odds with the wording of a bill that was up for consideration by the Ohio Legislature.
Now with the approval of H.B. 523 by the Ohio Senate and expected concurrence by the Ohio House of Representatives, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana will move toward the November ballot with the issue of patient’s rights to medical marijuana supported by the Ohio General Assembly.
“This General Assembly has taken a step forward on this issue,” Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, said. “Their support for medical marijuana speaks volumes for eliminating any remaining biases against allowing doctors to recommend this life-enhancing treatment to patients in need.”
Ohioans for Medical Marijuana officials said, while the legislative bill clears several important societal and policy-making hurdles, it omits a number of critical issues. Among them, the group says that the qualifying conditions listed in H.B. 523 is still too limited. The amendment proposed by Ohioans for Medical Marijuana also includes such conditions as muscular dystrophy, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behavior, huntington’s disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome and severe and persistent muscle spasms. It prohibits qualifying patients from being able to smoke medical marijuana, regardless of whether their physician approves or not, it continues to delegate what the group considers too much legislative authority to boards and commissions to decide critical regulatory and licensing issues.
“Our Constitutional amendment builds on the legislature’s work by incorporating national best practices and offers voters an opportunity to enact a law free of the horse-trading inherent in the legislative process,” Marshall said. “Our amendment also protects the rights of patients in the Ohio Constitution, not leaving this important issue vulnerable to the reach of special interests.”
The Daily Times inquired of State Representative Dr. Terry Johnson as to his opinion on the issue.
“As a family physician, I have dedicated my life to the health and well-being of my patients. There are components in marijuana that have shown promise for legitimate medical use. In fact, Epidiolex, a medication based on marijuana derivative that is currently being studied, is close to being FDA approved,” Johnson told the Daily Times. “On the other hand, the federal government classifies marijuana as a Class 1 scheduled drug, making legitimate medical research difficult. In my opinion, marijuana should have its federal classification changed so we can do further research and possibly develop real medicines that can alleviate medical conditions. One thing I know for certain: we can always strive to do better for our patients and children who are suffering.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.