Pubdate: Wed, 21 May 2008
Source:	Mount Vernon News (OH)
Copyright: 2008 Progressive Communications.
Author: Anton Hepler


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."