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Lawmakers Unveil a Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Ohio

Photo of the task force

After months of testimony, the Ohio House’s task force studying the legalization of medical marijuana has made its recommendations. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, a bill will be introduced later this week that would allow a path for medical marijuana use in the Buckeye state.

Six months ago, Jimmy Gould was backing the proposed constitutional amendment that would have legalized medical and recreational marijuana if Ohio voters approved it. But voters rejected it by nearly a 2-1 margin. Now, as a member of the Ohio House’s task force on medicinal pot, Gould is praising new legislation coming out of that effort.

“It will be, I think, the best medical marijuana bill in the United States of America.”

Public input
The bill comes out of a series of hearings where more than 100 people testified both for and against medical pot.  Republican Rep. Kirk Schuring of Stark County says the bill creates a nine-member medical marijuana control commission and lays out other specifics on how a medical marijuana plan would work in Ohio. For example:  Schuring says only licensed doctors will be allowed to recommend medical marijuana under certain conditions.

Photo of Schuring
Credit Ohio Statehouse
Schuring was named chairman of the task force, which was formed after a move to legalize recreational and medical marijuana in Ohio failed.

“Physicians who are certified under that medical marijuana control commission will have to report every 90 days on the type of patients they have recommended medical marijuana to, the types of conditions their patients are suffering and why they recommended medical marijuana in lieu of more conventional forms of medicine and what forms of medical marijuana they also recommended.” 

No home-grown products
Schuring says home grown marijuana will not be allowed. He says businesses that have drug policies for workers will still be able to enforce those policies. Democratic State Sen. Kenny Yuko, a longtime advocate for medical marijuana, is optimistic.

“This is the way legislation is supposed to work.”

Photo of Kenny Yuko
Yuko, a Democrat and legalization advocate, says the system is working as it should.

Buy-in from other former foes
Republican former Attorney General Betty Montgomery, an outspoken opponent of the plan last fall, also likes this legislative plan. She says attorneys general from around the country have advised this legislative route to legalizing medical cannabis.

“They have all said, ‘Don’t proceed where you are inflexible because you are going to have things come up that you are going to be able to adjust to.’”

A lack of trust
Some groups, however, don’t trust the Ohio Legislature to come up with a medical marijuana plan that will meet the needs of patients. Mason Tvert is with a group called Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. It’s backed by an organization that’s passed medical marijuana laws in other states. Tvert’s group is gathering petition signatures now to put its issue on the ballot this fall.

“It would be foolish to wait around and expect the Legislature to accomplish something it hasn’t accomplished for the past two decades. We are going to move forward, and if the Legislature, in the meantime, passes a good law, we can re-evaluate this later.”

Tvert says sick Ohioans cannot wait. Another group that wants to pass a medical marijuana provision will appear before the ballot board just hours from now to get approval for another petition. And that group also hopes its plan will be on the statewide ballot this fall.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.