Pubdate: Wed, 21 May 2008 Source: Mount Vernon News (OH) Copyright: 2008 Progressive Communications. Author: Anton Hepler MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL PROPOSED IN OHIO COLUMBUS - Ohio Sen. Tom Roberts, D-Dayton, unveiled details of the Ohio Medical Compassion Act on Tuesday, which if adopted, "would allow patients to use medicinal cannabis through a regulated system of quality health care." If enacted, Ohio would join 12 other states that have currently de-criminalized the use of medicinal marijuana. According to Roberts, the legislation would allow qualified patients and primary caregivers to use medicinal cannabis through a cardholder system. Tonya Davis, a medicinal marijuana user who assisted in drafting the bill, said that under the proposed legislation, only a patient with a medical condition or illness that is sufficiently serious or debilitating, and who has the approval of his or her medical practitioner, will be able to use cannabis. Davis suffers from a host of debilitating medical conditions, including domestic violence-induced scoliosis, and is confined to a wheelchair. "It's time that Ohio just look at the science and with it being well regulated, hopefully ... we'll be able to protect the patients more," Davis told the News. Roberts' proposed legislation would call on the Ohio Departments of Health and Agriculture to establish an advisory board to regulate the use of medicinal marijuana. The program would be run under a cardholder system, and the board would be responsible for reviewing the use of cannabis in cases of debilitated medical conditions, reviewing applications for registry identification cards and providing recommendations for the safe growing and use of medical cannabis. "After talking with Tonya [Davis] on and off for the last two years, I've had the opportunity to meet people who've had these debilitating conditions that this kind of medical treatment could help," Roberts told the News. "When crafting this bill, we took the best practices from across the country and put them into the Ohio Medical Compassion Act." Additionally, Davis said, the bill would prohibit cardholders from performing tasks under the influence that would constitute negligence or malpractice, possessing or using on school grounds or correctional facilities, and driving under the influence. The bill would also prohibit the smoking of marijuana in public and would not require employers to accommodate the use of cannabis in the workplace. It also establishes that a patient may not possess more than 200 grams of marijuana and 12 mature plants for personal use. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the News that if passed, the new law should not be that problematic since Ohio is already a de-criminalized state. "These patients should be protected from going into the justice system any further than an initial arrest," said St. Pierre. "At the prosecutorial level, [prosecutors] should be able to take a deep breath, look at the law, and in most cases, if the person complied with the [medicinal] law, then these individuals will not go any further through the criminal justice system. Society at this point realizes that for a person who is sick and dying, a jail cell should not be a prescription." St. Pierre said that Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan all have similar legislation pending voter approval. For now, Roberts said he plans to formally introduce the bill in the Senate this morning, where it will soon be referred to committee for hearing. Roberts said Davis and others are expected to testify to the committee about the benefits of the proposed legislation. "I'm just so humbled and touched that this is finally going to happen," said Davis. "I just hope I live to see this bill pass."