Pubdate: Sun, 01 May 2016
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2016 Dayton Daily News
Author: Thomas Suddes
Note: Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University.


More than a token, but something short of tokin': That's the Ohio 
General Assembly's task in trying to craft a bill legalizing Ohioans' 
use of medical marijuana.

The science may or may not be there, at least not entirely. But what 
looks like a public consensus seems to be. And that consensus is that 
marijuana's chemical components can help Ohioans fighting certain 
illnesses or enduring, say, chemotherapy.

Pending in a House committee is House Bill 523, a bipartisan medical 
marijuana plan sponsored by Reps. Stephen Huffman of Tipp City and 
Kirk Schuring of Canton, both Republicans, and Dan Ramos, a Lorain 
Democrat. Huffman's a physician. He earned his medical degree at the 
Medical College of Ohio (now the University of Toledo's College of 
Medicine and Life Sciences). Among those praising the House for 
taking up the medical marijuana issue: Sen. Kenny Yuko, a Richmond 
Heights Democrat, a longtime proponent of medical marijuana.

For details on HB 523, as the bill is now worded, see the explainer 
("analysis") available at the Ohio Legislative Service Commission's 
Web site, www.lsc. Go to the site's "resolutions & related 
documents" tab and search for HB 523.

Politically speaking, House Speaker Clifford A. Rosenberger, a 
Clarksville Republican, cleared the way for House debate on the 
issue. That is, Rosenberger did what a legislative leader should do: 
Lead. For too long, Ohio legislators of both parties have ducked 
hot-button issues by leaving them to "consultants" and other 
hucksters who promote statewide ballot issues written to benefit a 
ballot-issue's backers, not taxpayers. Peoples' Exhibit No. 1: The 
2009 ballot issue that authorized four gambling casinos in Ohio, a 
bonanza for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and suburban Philadelphia's Penn 
National Gaming Inc.

The 2009 ballot issue passed with 53 percent of those voting 
statewide voting "yes." And that 2009 proposal was the fifth casino 
gambling issue in 19 years to be on Ohio's ballot.

That is, for almost a generation, the General Assembly could have 
written a taxpayer-friendly casino gambling law. But legislators 
wouldn't, possibly due to counter-pressure from racetracks, which 
feared the competition. Almost inevitably, voters signed off on the 
deal Gilbert and Penn National wrote themselves. Why not? It was the 
only thing on the table. But that also moved Ohio closer to 
"Californication"  writing laws not at the Statehouse but at the polls.

It appears that one or more medical marijuana ballot issues could 
qualify for this November's ballot. True, last November, Ohio voters 
rejected, by 64 percent to 36 percent, a ballot issue to legalize 
marijuana for both medical and recreational uses. But three of the 
first four casino issues on Ohio's statewide ballot only drew the 
"yes" votes of 38 percent of the Ohioans voting on them. Even so, 
Ohio today has casinos  precisely the kind of casinos, thanks to that 
2009 ballot issue, that the casinos' owners want.

Meanwhile, this is funny: People who may not think much of some of 
Republican Gov. John R. Kasich policies want him to end his 
presidential campaign, come home - and run Ohio.

But Kasich's gubernatorial staff, and the House's Rosenberger, and 
Republican Senate President Keith Faber of Celina, seem to be coping 
just fine. Besides, why shouldn't the host-governor of the Republican 
National Convention stay in the ring for a title bout staged on his 
turf ? And amid Republicans from 49 other states in Cleveland in 
July, the Republican best-positioned to know what's going on in 
downtown Cleveland, with countless pairs of Ohio eyes and ears at his 
disposal is ... the governor of Ohio.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom