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Government & Politics

Ohio Republicans Say They Need Democratic Votes on Medical Marijuana

photo of Ohio House
ANDY CHOW
/
OHIO PUBLIC RADIO

Democrats in the Ohio Senate could play a key role in determining whether state lawmakers are able to pass a medical marijuana bill that passed the House last week. Statehouse correspondent Jo Ingles explains why.

There are 33 members in the Senate: 23 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Often times, Democrats in that chamber are not needed to pass legislation. But this time around, Republican Sen. Bill Seitz thinks some of their votes might be needed to push the medical marijuana bill through.

“I don’t know whether there are the votes in the Senate to pass the House bill or anything close to the House bill. I think it will pass, but I think it will be close.”

The House bill would allow medical marijuana recommended only by doctors and only in certain forms, and it can’t be smoked and it can’t be grown at home. Democratic Sen. Joe Schiavoni is the minority leader. He says some Democratic senators oppose the idea of medical marijuana. But he says most of his caucus is considering the legislation carefully.

“Most of our members are in favor of the idea but have different concerns for different reasons.”

Making other plans
Schiavoni says most of them realize it's a matter of time before Ohio gets a medical marijuana plan.

Indeed, two different groups are looking at putting a medical marijuana constitutional amendment before voters this fall. One of those groups has been successful in other states and has an organization in place now, trying to collect the more than 305,000 valid signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. Schiavoni says that’s why many of his members would like to see a law passed by the Legislature rather than a voter-passed constitutional amendment. But he says timing is essential.

“The longer we take to do this, the more amendments that get talked about and discussed, it makes it more difficult.”

In the Senate
Republican Sen. Dave Burke has taken the reins on getting the House-passed medical marijuana bill through the Senate. He says while it might be a challenge to strike a balance with this medical marijuana plan, lawmakers also realize time to pass a bill is limited.

“So while the bill may have its imperfections and perfections, unless you are supportive of outside entities coming to your state and inserting themselves on a drug issue, an illegal drug issue no less, into the Ohio Constitution, I think the Legislature is a more thoughtful path.”

The Senate hopes to pass this bill by the end of next week, before the legislature leaves for its summer break.