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Government & Politics

Ohio Lawmakers Discuss Medical Marijuana's Slow Start in Ohio

Kenny Yuko presiding over the vote

A day that medical marijuana activists have been awaiting for decades dawns on Sept. 8, when the state law creating a medical marijuana program in Ohio takes effect.

But with less than two weeks to go, there’s a lot of work to do. Two lawmakers who were intimately involved in crafting the law talked about why the program seems to be getting a slow start.

The medical marijuana law came grew out of the ResponsibleOhio issue from last fall – which would have legalized both medicinal and recreational pot use. It lost by a 2-1 margin, but even those opposed to it said it had sparked a conversation about marijuana as a medical tool.

Stark County Republican Rep. Kirk Schuring headed up a task force in the House that ended up crafting the new medical marijuana law after hours of testimony, mostly from supporters of the idea. He says it’s a complicated issue that needs to be handled carefully. 

“We’re building a whole new industry, and we want to make sure we do it right,” Schuring said. “That’s what was so important about the legislation – doing it through the Revised Code versus the Constitution. We think we have the best medical marijuana law in the entire United States.”

The law passed in May with three quarters of the House supporting it, but with “no” votes from 20 Republicans and six Democrats.

The law got past the Republican-dominated Senate by only a three-vote margin. 

The great unknowns
A panel of lawmakers that approves spending outside the budget put the first $1.8 million toward the program just a few days ago.

"If we don't get the doctors writing the recommendations, we're not going to have a whole lot to deal with."

  But with less than two weeks before the law takes effect, many questions remain about the program, including: Who will be on the commission, who and how many growers will there be, and how will patients get their medical marijuana cards?

Sen. Kenny Yuko , a Northeast Ohio Democrat, has been fighting for medical marijuana for 13 years.

Asked if he thinks the bill might not be a priority for some lawmakers because of concerns about medicinal pot, he responded:

“I think there’s a lot of truth to that, that we are going to have some difficult times getting implemented. I think there’s a lot of people who look at the economic value of a bill like this and getting the taxes, tax revenue from people who are growing and those who are distributing the product. But if we don’t get the doctors writing the recommendations, we’re not going to have a whole lot to deal with."