Pubdate: Tue, 08 Mar 2016
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2016 Dayton Daily News
Author: Alan Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch


Issues Proposed for Ballot; Legislative Study Underway.

The push to legalize marijuana isn't going away in Ohio.

Two medical-marijuana issues are proposed for the fall ballot, and 
the legislature is looking into legislation regarding potential 
medical uses for pot.

While no one is pitching a for-profit plan for recreational 
marijuana, as ResponsibleOhio did before Ohio voters dumped it last 
fall, there might be openings in the new proposals to turn marijuana into cash.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., group that has been 
instrumental in the passage of marijuana initiatives in other states, 
appears to have the proposal with the best organization and funding 
behind it. If approved, the initiative would allow about 215,000 
patients with qualifying medical conditions to use marijuana as 
prescribed by a doctor; permit patients to grow marijuana for their 
own use, or buy it from retail dispensaries; restrict the use of 
marijuana in public places or while driving; and create a state 
Medical Marijuana Control Division to oversee the system. Ohio would 
join 23 other states with medical marijuana laws or amendments in place.

Spokesman Mason Tvert said the initiative would "ensure that 
seriously ill Ohioans have safe and legal access to medical marijuana 
if their doctors believe it will alleviate their pain and suffering."

"It's time to stop punishing sick and dying people who are simply 
seeking relief," Tvert said.

But the proposed constitutional amendment has an element that is 
raising eyebrows: limiting the number of growers to 15. Although the 
growers would not be investors who pay millions of dollars to buy 
into the program - a feature of the ResponsibleOhio plan that voters 
saw as a fatal flaw - the limit opens the door to criticism that the 
proposal could be a special-interest bonanza.

Don E. Wirtshafter, an Athens County lawyer who is helping to draft 
another marijuana initiative, said Ohio voters are "concerned with 
people using the constitution for these investment schemes."

"The MPP proposal is so wired for economic interests," Wirthshafter 
said. "This is secret money that's not traceable. They're trying to 
lock in the franchises and own them forever."

Rob Kampia, MPP executive director, disputed that claim. He said 
licenses for growing marijuana would be awarded on a competitive 
basis, not locked in for investors.

Wirtshafter's group is taking the unusual step of pursuing both a 
constitutional amendment to place medical marijuana and industrial 
hemp in the Ohio Constitution, and an initiated statute to create the 
rules for how both would be regulated. An initiated statute gives the 
state legislature a chance to act on the proposal. If that doesn't 
happen, backers can take the issue directly to voters.

"We're trying really hard to be careful about what's supposed to be 
in the constitution as opposed to what should be in law," Wirtshafter 
said. "Ours is not going to be that different from MPP, but the 
beauty of ours is if there's a problem with it, the legislature will 
be able to fix it. It won't all be in the constitution, which is very 
hard to change."

"I think the people are going to get this," he said. "People heavily 
support medical marijuana."

Meanwhile, both the Ohio House and Senate are looking into medical 
marijuana legislation, but neither appears to be in a rush to pass any.

House Speaker Clifford Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, set up a diverse 
task force to study medical marijuana. The group has taken testimony 
from witnesses on both sides of the issue but has not proposed 
legislation. Sens. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, and Kenny Yuko, 
D-Richmond Heights, held hearings in Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

Rep. Kirk Schuring, a Canton Republican who is head of the House task 
force, said it is gathering information and will hold three more 
hearings - the last on March 31 - before deciding what should be proposed.

"We know Ohioans are curious about medical marijuana," Schuring said. 
"We're learning. It's too early to say how things will play out."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom