Pubdate: Wed, 20 Jan 2016
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2016 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Jim Siegel


Not long ago, majority Statehouse Republicans barely uttered a peep 
about marijuana legalization.

Now both chambers have appointed special panels to explore the pros 
and cons of medical marijuana.

Sens. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, and Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, 
announced Tuesday they are going on a "listening tour" with stops in 
Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati.

Yuko has advocated for medical marijuana for more than a decade, 
while Burke said he remains skeptical.

As a pharmacist, Burke said he knows that "All chemicals can cause 
both harm and benefits, depending on the use." He said he will remain 
open minded.

"Other drugs are administered and overseen by the federal 
government," Burke said. "If we are going to use a substance as a 
drug, to me, it should follow that process. My fear in the state 
process is there are variabilities from state to state."

Burke wonders if a person who travels from Ohio to California with a 
prescription is going to get the same product in each state.

The listening tour starts Jan. 30 in Cleveland, and Burke said he 
doesn't know if it will result in legislation.

Yuko appears hopeful that the Senate and House, after hearing all of 
the information, will move forward with medical marijuana. "I never 
quit at anything."

The Senate's announcement comes less than a week after the House 
announced the creation of a separate 15-member task force that will 
study the medical marijuana issue and come up with a recommendation 
by the end of March. Burke said he hopes the Senate efforts will 
dovetail with the House discussions.

The House panel includes members with diverse views on medical 
marijuana, including doctors, hospitals, business groups, and two 
former leaders of the ReponsibleOhio group that that unsuccessfully 
pushed to legalize marijuana in Ohio in November.

Nationally, 23 states have legalized marijuana in some form. Of 
those, four - Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska - also have 
legalized it for recreational use. Groups have continued to discuss 
placing another marijuana legalization bill on the Ohio ballot this November.

Despite the crushing defeat of Issue 3 in November, an issue that 
critics painted as a money grab by wealthy individuals trying to 
build a monopoly into the Constitution, polls in Ohio have shown 
strong support for legalizing medical marijuana.

Both the House and Senate are reaching for the same goal of a better 
understanding of medical marijuana, Burke said.

"We need to determine where our friends and neighbors are on this 
issue before we move forward," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom