Pubdate: Fri, 15 Jan 2016
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2016 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Jim Siegel


GOP legislators generally opposed legalization, but some now see 
support growing for medical marijuana.

Two former top leaders of the ResponsibleOhio group that 
unsuccessfully pushed to legalize marijuana in Ohio in November have 
now decided to team up with Ohio House leaders to seek a more modest 
medical-marijuana initiative.

Jimmy Gould, co-founder of ResponsibleOhio, knows his group took the 
kind of shellacking at the ballot last fall that makes it difficult 
to just regroup and try again. Instead, he and Chris Stock, a fellow 
attorney who worked on ResponsibleOhio, joined Speaker Cliff 
Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, to attempt to implement a level of 
regulated legalization.

"We spent a lot of money, and we didn't get what we want," Gould 
said. "When you lose, you get back on your feet and take the best 
path that's available to you. This is the best way we can possibly go 
about it."

Gould and Stock joined Rosenberger and a host of others yesterday as 
House leaders announced the creation of a 15-member task force that, 
starting on Jan. 28, will hold meetings to weigh the pros and cons of 
medical marijuana. It will make a recommendation to the full House by 
March 31 - a deadline set by the speaker.

"This is not a task force we are establishing to be a stall tactic," 
Rosenberger said. "It's not a task force that will just hand out some 
fancy report at the end of the day."

The group is expected to have some diverse views on the issue of 
marijuana legalization. It will include representatives from the 
State Medical Association, unions, business groups, hospitals, law 
enforcement and addiction treatment, as well as Betty Montgomery, the 
former state attorney general.

The Ohio Senate also will soon start its own, separate forums on 
medical marijuana.

In the past, Republican legislators generally have opposed marijuana 
legalization, but some say they have heard from a growing number of 
people who support legalizing the drug for medical purposes. Polls 
have shown strong support in Ohio.

Gould said he thinks Rosenberger and Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, 
who will head the task force, have good intentions.

"The fact that they invited us to do it is an indication they want 
everybody heard," he said. "Ohio needs medical marijuana, and needs 
it for anything. But it needs to be done the right way."

ResponsibleOhio also has withdrawn the "Fresh Start Act," an 
initiated statute the group recently sent to the legislature for 
consideration. The proposal would have allowed people to expunge past 
marijuana convictions if the drug is legalized. Gould said 
legalization needs to happen first.

"We're really at a very special point right now where we have a 
timeout and we're going to have conversation," Schuring said. "We're 
optimistic it will lead to something that we can point to at the end of March."

Nationally, 23 states have legalized marijuana in some form. Of 
those, four - Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska - also have 
legalized it for recreational use.

The Senate will soon start forums in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus 
and Toledo, where Sens. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, and Kenny Yuko, 
D-Richmond Heights, will listen to those who want to talk for or 
against the idea. Dates and times are being finalized.

"It's open to the public. It's a chance for people to come out and 
talk about their opinions of medical marijuana," said John Fortney, 
spokesman for Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina. "People spoke 
loudly on Issue 3 that if it's going to be medical marijuana, it has 
to be about the medicine and not about the money."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom