Pubdate: Thu, 28 Feb 2013
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2013 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


Medical marijuana isn't a bad idea, a former Obama administration drug
official said today, but it's wrong to use "smoked marijuana under the
pretense of medicine."

Kevin Sabet, a senior advisor to national drug czar Gil Kerlikowske
from 2009 to 2011, spoke at a Statehouse press conference where
anti-drug groups blasted two proposed medical marijuana constitutional
amendments being circulated in Ohio, potentially for the November ballot.

Nationally known as a crusader against medical marijuana in the
traditional form, Sabet said existing drugs, and others in the testing
stage, contain the key chemical components of marijuana but are
dispensed in pill form. One such drug is Marinol, often prescribed for
cancer and AIDS patients.

Advocates of medical marijuana want to legalize marijuana, Sabet
added, and are "putting on white coats and pretending to have
compassion for the sick and dying."

The Ohio Ballot Board last year approved two separate issues, the Ohio
Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2012 and the Ohio Alternative Treatment
Amendment, clearing the way for supporters of each to gather the
385,245 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify for the
ballot. The group has until July 6 to submit names.

Both issues hope to persuade voters to amend the Ohio Constitution to
legalize the use of marijuana to treat chronic pain associated with
many diseases and conditions. The Cannabis Amendment is supported
primarily by patients, advocates and business people, while the
Alternative Treatment Amendment's most high-profile backer is the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Sabet said the experience of 18 states and the District of Columbia
where medical marijuana is legal show that just 5 percent of those
receiving the drug have severe medical problems. He said analyses show
the typical user is "a 32-year-old white male with a history of drug
abuse problems and no major medical history." Ailments for which
marijuana was most often prescribed were headaches and stress.

Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance,
predicted widespread negative consequences if Ohio voters approve
medical marijuana. She said Ohio is "in the crosshairs" of national
groups targeting states for marijuana initiatives.

Mary Jane Borden, representing, the former Medical
Cannabis Amendment organization, said she disagrees with Sabet's
assertion about approved uses of marijuana in medications, such as
Marinol. "What we're missing are other properties that are also

Borden said her group has reorganized and will submit a new petition
to the state in few weeks that includes legalized growing and use of
hemp, a plant related to marijuana that is grown in Canada but is
illegal in the U.S.

She said the group hasn't decided if will still aim for an amendment
on the fall ballot.
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