Pubdate: Fri, 06 May 2016
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2016 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


The Ohio House could make history Tuesday by approving legislation to 
legalize medical marijuana.

While state lawmakers have considered marijuana legislation in the 
past, no proposal has ever made it out of committee and to the full 
House for a vote.

House Bill 523 was approved by a special committee Thursday faster 
than you can say "tetrahydrocannabinol," the chemical in marijuana 
that produces the "high" when smoking or ingesting it. It also 
provides pain relief, soothes seizures and increases appetite. There 
were two minor amendments and no discussion.

The swift final vote culminated months of informal field hearings and 
formal committee hearings on legislation to allow Ohioans with 
qualifying illnesses and medical conditions to obtain marijuana as 
medicine if it is prescribed by a physician. It could be used in a 
vapor form, but not smoked. It also could be used in edible form as 
long as it's not attractive to children, as a patch, oil or other extract.

The revised version of the bill approved by the committee caps the 
amount of tetrahydrocannabinol to between 3 and 35 percent in plant 
material and 70 percent for extracts. The legislation would not allow 
homegrown marijuana, instead setting up a tightly regulated system 
for growing, processing, prescribing and dispensing it. A special 
medical marijuana commission would operate under the Ohio Department 
of Commerce, in consultation with the Ohio Pharmacy Board and Ohio 
Medical Board.

"We listened to those who need medical marijuana," said state Rep. 
Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, chairman of the committee, said after the 
vote. "I think we will have bipartisan support for it in the House 
and it will win the day and move to the Senate."

Rep. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, an emergency room doctor and 
member of the committee, voted for the amendment. Huffman said he 
decided that marijuana has medical value in a controlled situation.

Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, a sponsor of the bill, said the committee 
heard "dozens of stories from Ohioans who are truly tormented with 
terrible afflictions; adults with chronic conditions, children and 
babies with seizure disorders, and veterans with PTSD. It has been my 
intention all the while to produce legislation that would help all of 
them find some relief from their suffering."

Legislators have been pushing ahead in part because of the challenge 
posed by two proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendments 
which have approval to gather signatures to get on the Nov. 8 general 
election ballot.

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a group backed by the Marijuana Policy 
Project of Washington, D.C., criticized the legislation as "narrow 
and restrictive." Spokesman Aaron Marshall said it will make it 
difficult for patients to get marijuana for their medical needs.

"Very few doctors will be willing to enter into a system that doesn't 
trust them to make decisions that are in the best interest of their 
patients and ties their hands with regulatory red tape," Marshall 
said. He said a similar provision in a New York law resulted in only 
556 of 90,000 physicians agreeing to serve marijuana patients.


What's allowed

What to know about the medical marijuana bill:

Includes 20 medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, 
such as post-traumatic stress disorder, seizure disorders, traumatic 
brain injuries and intractable pain.

Prevents parents and caregivers from being arrested for providing 
marijuana to patients.

Allows qualifying patients from other states where medical marijuana 
is legal to use ID cards to buy and use marijuana in Ohio.

Creates a program to help veterans and the poor obtain marijuana.

Blocks marijuana businesses from location within 1,000 feet of 
school, churches, libraries and parks.

Exempts lawyers, accountants and other medical professionals who 
provide marijuana-related services from legal and disciplinary action.
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