Pubdate: Mon, 1 Jun 2009
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2009 The Blade
Author: Jim Provance, Blade Columbus Bureau Chief
Referenced: Initiated Law 1 of 2008
Referenced: Michigan Medical Marihuana Program,1607,7-132-27417_51869---,00.html
Referenced: The Ohio Poll
Cited: Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Opposition Awaits Possible Legislation

COLUMBUS - From football to taxes, the rivalry between Ohio and its 
neighbor up north is the stuff of legend. But when it comes to 
legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, Ohio is showing 
little sign of following Michigan's lead.

A bill is being negotiated behind the scenes for possible 
introduction this fall, but even the concept's strongest supporters 
know it faces an improbable climb in the General Assembly.

The spear carrier this time may be Rep. Kenny Yuko (D., Richmond 
Heights), who believes he has a special perspective given his 
diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

"It's given me a spirited interest," he said. "People come to me 
about MS and other illnesses. I've never had a marijuana cigarette in 
my life. I have no idea what that's like, but people have told me 
about the comfort it brings them in dealing with very excruciating illnesses."

On Nov. 4, 63 percent of Michigan voters approved a ballot issue 
making that state the 13th in the nation and the first in the Midwest 
to legalize the regulated use of marijuana by people dealing with a 
"debilitating medical condition" such as cancer, AIDS, Crohn's 
Disease, or other conditions causing severe pain, nausea, wasting, 
seizures, and other problems.

Since its medical marijuana program officially took effect April 6, 
the Michigan Department of Community Health has received 2,144 
applications for registration cards that would allow applicants or 
their caregivers to grow or possess limited amounts of marijuana for 
personal medical use.

Department spokesman James McCurtis said 1,188 cards have been issued 
to patients and 403 have been issued to their designated caregivers. 
He said demand is expected to increase.

Prior to voters' approval of the law, the department officially 
opposed its passage.

"Now it doesn't matter how people feel about it," Mr. McCurtis said. 
"The people of Michigan have spoken, and now we do our job."

John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys 
Association, has heard the rumors in the Statehouse halls about a 
renewed effort in Ohio. The association remains opposed to the idea.

"It's viewed as a controlled substance, and there must be a reason 
for that," he said. "It's regarded as harmful and habit-forming, all 
the usual reasons. It should remain that way."

While the issue went directly to voters in Michigan, the emphasis in 
Ohio remains on the General Assembly, particularly in the House, 
where Democrats recently regained the majority. There's been little 
talk of pursuing an expensive ballot issue, despite a recent Ohio 
Poll released by the University of Cincinnati that showed 73 percent 
of Ohioans generally favor the concept.

"The passage of the issue up there [in Michigan] came through 
[wealthy Democratic activist] Peter Lewis' money," said Ed Orlett, a 
former state representative from Columbus who has advocated changes 
in Ohio's drug policy.

"We understand that the whole [ballot] effort would cost $2 million," 
he said. "It's a question of priorities. There are efforts in 12 
other states, so someone is putting money into those states rather than Ohio."

He said he believes chances of passage in the General Assembly are 
better than they were, but the odds are still stacked against it, 
particularly if lawmakers propose the same bill introduced last 
session that was more lenient than what Michigan voters passed.

For instance, the Ohio bill, which saw a single committee hearing 
before it died last year, would have allowed approved medical 
marijuana users to have on hand about 7 ounces of usable marijuana. 
Michigan's law allows 2.5 ounces.

"If you take it down to 3.5 [ounces], then you're in the ballpark," 
Mr. Orlett said. "We wouldn't stand out."

Mr. Yuko said talks will continue over the summer in hopes of having 
a bill ready this fall that could have a chance of at least getting a 
House vote.

"People need to keep an open mind about it," he said. "We've reached 
a point in our lives where people can act responsibly with something 
that has a history of misuse." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake