Pubdate: Tue, 06 Oct 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


Joe Triscaro does not like the ResponsibleOhio marijuanalegalization 
amendment, but he will vote for it on Nov. 3.

Dr. Anup D. Patel, a pediatric neurologist and director of the 
Complex Epilepsy Clinic at Nationwide Children's Hospital, says Issue 
3 is not the way to make medical marijuana legal.

Marijuana as medicine is a controversial and emotional topic. 
Although most medical experts say there is no incontrovertible 
scientific evidence supporting marijuana for medical purposes, 
numerous studies, reports and thousands of anecdotal cases seem to 
indicate otherwise.

Marijuana products, such as extracted oils, help ease pain, control 
seizures and reduce spasticity in some cases. The U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration has not approved marijuana as medicine, but that could 
change as soon as next year.

Triscaro's love for Paula, his once-vivacious and -active bride of 30 
years, guides his heart and vote.

Mrs. Triscaro, who suffered brain damage after a heart attack in 
2009, is nonverbal and uses a wheelchair. The Chagrin Falls 
businessman said his research and information he has received from 
the Cleveland Clinic, where his wife receives treatment, shows that 
medical marijuana can be effective in reducing spasticity, the 
stiffness and muscle spasms his wife constantly suffers.

"I'm just looking for medicine for my wife," Triscaro said. "I want 
her to smile. I want her to laugh. I want her to know she's loved.

"Why would you deny us that chance?"

Triscaro is not alone in his plea for medical marijuana. Elderly 
loved ones with terminal cancer, parents of children suffering 
hundreds of epileptic seizures a week, spouses with multiple 
sclerosis - these and others seeking help for family members are 
turning to medical marijuana for answers.

Patel has 50 pediatric patients participating in an international 
clinical trial of Epidiolex, a drug with a marijuana component 
manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company. The study, 
which is being overseen by the FDA, is closed, so no new patients can be added.

Patel said that if the trials go well, the new drug could be approved 
for limited use as soon as next year, but more research is needed.

"I understand parents' desperation, and I know that a lot of 
treatments have failed," he said. But medical marijuana, as promised 
by state Issue 3, is "not fully studied and regulated. People won't 
know what they're getting.

"Please do not vote yes on Issue 3 because you think it will help 
children of epilepsy and other neurological disorders get help they 
need," Patel said. "Give us time. Let us show with these trials that 
this is safe."

The ResponsibleOhio constitutional amendment that Ohio voters will 
decide next month is a twofer, including both medical use by people 
with qualifying health conditions and recreational marijuana for 
those 21 or older. But one use cannot be approved without the other.

Marijuana would be grown at 10 predetermined sites across the state, 
with the Franklin and Stark county locations at least partially 
dedicated to cultivating specialty pot for medical uses. It would 
permit "patients with debilitating medical conditions to acquire, 
administer, purchase, possess, transport, and use" medical marijuana 
if they have certification from a physician. Patients younger than 18 
could be prescribed marijuana by a physician with the consent of a 
custodial parent or guardian.

The amendment would allow establishment of "not-for-profit medical 
marijuana dispensaries" to provide medication for Ohioans who meet 
income and medical qualifications.

Jennifer Keener, a Dublin mother of four, favors Issue 3 solely 
because of medical marijuana. She wants it for her son, Alex, 7, who 
was born with a mass in his brain that required seven delicate 
surgeries. He still has four or more seizures per day and struggles 
with an agonizing array of side effects.

"We've been in and out of the hospital. We've seen alternative 
doctors. We tried diets, gluten free, dairy free," Keener said. 
"Every seizure he has rocks our whole."

Keener believes the stress of Alex's health problems contributed to 
the fatal heart attack her husband, Greg, suffered in February last year.

"He was Alex's biggest cheerleader," Keener said. "He was an 
engineer, but he couldn't fix our son."

Before Greg's death, the Keeners were planning to move out of state, 
probably to Michigan, where medical marijuana is legal. That isn't in 
the cards now, with Kenner caring for Alex and his sisters, Ava, 10, 
and twins Lyla and Lanie, 5.

"Shame on Ohio that we can't look to a plant for options," Keener 
said. "I'm going to vote for Issue 3."

None of Ohio's five statewide-elected, nonjudicial officeholders - 
all Republicans - favors Issue 3, because they don't want 
recreational use of marijuana or the addition of a monopoly in the 
state Constitution. But three of them told The Dispatch that they 
would support the General Assembly holding hearings on medical 
marijuana next year, if the pot legalization amendment is defeated.

"We've got to find a way to move the ball forward (on medical 
marijuana)," Auditor Dave Yost said. "But ResponsibleOhio is not the 
way. It will increase suffering. I'm not willing to trade one bad set 
of tragic circumstances for another."

Attorney General Mike DeWine had his staff research medical marijuana 
this year. While he didn't find anything that persuaded him to give 
it his full-throated support, DeWine said he is "not ready to say no."

"I don't blame the parents that want this for their kids," he said. 
"If that was my child, I would do what it takes to relieve their 
suffering. I don't have enough information to say I would be for it."

DeWine, like Yost and Secretary of State Jon Husted, said he thinks 
the legislature should hold hearings on medical marijuana, bring in 
medical experts, and see what the next step should be.

Spokesman Joe Andrews said Gov. John Kasich "is sensitive to the 
plight of those who have debilitating diseases, but feels the need to 
let medical professionals lead on this issue."

The national Epilepsy Foundation "supports the rights of patients and 
families living with seizures and epilepsy to access 
physician-directed care, including medical marijuana.. ... If a 
patient and their health-care professionals feel that the potential 
benefits of medical marijuana for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the 
risks, then families need to have that legal option now - not in five 
years or 10 years."

Robin Yost - no relation to the auditor - doesn't want to wait that 
long, but she also doesn't support ResponsibleOhio's plan.

Robin and her husband, Jim, who live in Warren, had no family history 
of epilepsy when their daughter Ellie was diagnosed at 18 months old 
with a form that's not responsive to known drug treatments. Mrs. Yost 
said it was horrible, as a parent, to watch helplessly as her child, 
now 19, would have hundreds of seizures, large and small, each day.

"It's very frustrating," she said. "You want to fix things for your 
children. This is something I can't fix. She can't drive. She can't 
spend a night at someone's house. Sometimes she has one seizure after another."

Like other families, the Yosts looked into marijuana extracts to calm 
or eliminate Ellie's seizures.

But Yost said she won't move to Colorado, where marijuana is legal, 
at least not right away. And she won't vote for ResponsibleOhio.

"I'm not convinced it's the ticket," she said. "I don't think I will 
vote for it."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom