Pubdate: Tue, 28 May 2013
Source: Norwalk Reflector (OH)
Copyright: 2013 The Blade
Author: Jim Provance, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Ohio)


Amendment would leave many decisions to new bipartisan Ohio 
Commission of Cannabis Control on dispensing medical marijuana and 
the Department of Agriculture on hemp production.

Backers of the third attempt in less than two years to legalize 
medical marijuana in Ohio insist the latest effort will take root as 
it did in Michigan.

"There's far more interest in people backing this one, particularly 
those who want to bring people into the political arena in 2014," 
said Bob Fitrakis, a member of the Ohio Rights Group behind the latest effort.

The group just cleared two hurdles to get petition circulators out. 
Both Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Ohio Ballot Board have 
signed off on language that would be shown to potential petition signers.

But its two predecessors reached that point too, in late 2011 and 
early 2012, only to watch momentum then evaporate.

Ohio Rights Group knows it will need significant financial support 
and probably a deep-pocketed national benefactor if it is to gather 
nearly 400,000 valid signatures from registered voters.

Five of the six members making up this petition committee also were 
on the other two committees. But they've learned some political 
lessons along the way.

Unlike the other two, the proposed Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment 
contains the political buzzword "rights."

It seeks to combine the sometimes diverging support of therapeutic 
use of marijuana and the industrial use of marijuana's 
nonpsychoactive root plant hemp.

"There's always been a split in the movement with some strongly 
advocating industrial hemp but not medical marijuana and others 
wanting medical marijuana without wanting to deal with the hemp 
issue," said Mr. Fitrakis, an attorney and Columbus State Community 
College professor.

"We had two divided movements," he said. "We're trying to put 
together one grand movement."

By bringing in hemp, the backers also hope for buy-in from the 
current "jobs, jobs, jobs" political mantra that helped to lead 
voters in 2009 to embrace another industry they had repeatedly 
rejected in the past, casino gambling.

They hope to appeal to Appalachians who might see this as a legal 
cash crop for sale for medical purposes or for the manufacture of 
paper, clothing, fuel, rope, food, or building materials.

By shooting for 2014, when statewide candidates for governor, 
Congress, and the state legislature will be on the ballot, the 
backers hope to attract the support of factions that might see this 
as a way of driving desired voters to the polls.

And by taxing the product, they hope to appeal to those who see it as 
a new revenue.

Mr. Fitrakis said he believes the stars are aligning.

"Twenty states have already done it," he said. "The 21st [Illinois] 
will be coming on board, and that's usually where Ohio comes in."

Ohio lawmakers have generally expressed little interest in going in 
this direction. Past bills to legalize medical marijuana went 
nowhere, and a recently introduced measure by Rep. Bob Hagan (D., 
Youngstown) to outright legalize marijuana was seen as dead on arrival.

State Sen. David Burke (R., Marysville), a pharmacist whose Senate 
district stretches as far north as Sandusky Bay, has been on Ohio's 
front line in battling the proliferation of prescription drug "pill 
mills," particularly in southern Ohio.

"Drugs in this country are approved by the [U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration], so whether you get them through the mail, or 
Walgreens, or your local pharmacy, you know the medication you're 
going to get is the same no matter where you live in the United 
States...," he said.

"It's very dangerous if we, as a state, determine what is a 
prescription product," he said. "That takes you back to the days of 
Dr. Smith medicine wagon. There's no continuity for the chemical 
which is being prescribed."

The amendment would leave many decisions to a new bipartisan Ohio 
Commission of Cannabis Control on dispensing medical marijuana, the 
Department of Agriculture on hemp production, and lawmakers for both sides.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom