Pubdate: Sun, 08 May 2016
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2016 The Columbus Dispatch


It looks as if legalization of medical marijuana will come this year, 
either through pending legislation or through two possible ballot 
issues to amend the Ohio Constitution. But the Ohio House is larding 
its bill with unpopular restrictions instead of crafting a plainly 
worded compromise sufficient to kill the more-extreme ballot issues.

Many proponents of medical marijuana insist that smoking be one of 
the ways it can be used. But, unlike both ballot issues, House Bill 
523 would require those with a marijuana prescription to use 
vaporization or other devices if they wish to inhale. The bill also 
would prohibit home-grown marijuana, which the ballot issues would 
allow in limited quantities.

These stipulations tell us that the legislature has lost sight of the 
goal, which is to derail efforts to amend the Ohio Constitution by 
the Marijuana Policy Project and the Medicinal Cannabis and 
Industrial Hemp ballot issues. It is in the best interests of Ohioans 
that marijuana legalization be accomplished through statute, not via 
a constitutional amendment. If problems arise with a statute, it 
easily can be fixed by the legislature. A fix to the state 
constitution requires a vote of the people.

Laws are best written at the Statehouse, where medical experts and 
safety officials can weigh in, and not at the ballot box, where 
passions and slick campaigns might allow an ill-considered 
constitutional amendment to prevail. Use and distribution of medical 
marijuana should be controlled by elected lawmakers, not pot 
proponents and profit seekers.

As the House prepares to vote on Tuesday, the legislature must thread 
the needle and strike a viable compromise. Especially since a 
Quinnipiac University poll last year showed Ohioans overwhelmingly 
(84 percent) favor legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. If the 
legislature fails to produce a bill that satisfies this demand, the 
alternative is that Ohioans will again turn to ballot issues to have 
their voices heard. The consequences from this have been mixed.

Ohio voters during the past decade have approved initiatives to raise 
the minimum wage, enact a Smoke-Free Workplace law and restrict 
marriage to one man and one woman (overturned in 2015 by the U.S. 
Supreme Court's OK on same-sex marriage). And in 2009, after thrice 
rejecting casino issues, recession-weary Buckeye voters gave casino 
owners their way and approved gambling, carving casino addresses into 
their constitution.

The House bill offers some needed protections. It bars marijuana 
edibles in a "form that is considered to be attractive to children" 
to prevent poisonings seen in other states. And the bill specifies 20 
ailments for which the drug could be prescribed, including cancer, 
AIDS, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder 
and "pain that is chronic, severe and intractable." The idea is to 
ensure that medicinal marijuana does not morph into recreational use 
by people claiming vague and undiagnosable ills.

The science on whether marijuana is effective remains inconclusive, 
but many ill people say it alleviates their suffering.

Public support for legalization of medical marijuana is high. 
Legislative leaders deserve credit for at last fast tracking a bill 
to head off constitutional amendments. But this effort will work only 
if the bill truly satisfies public demand.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom