You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

breaking news

West Liberty search warrant underway at suspected shooter's house

Ohio voters may face decision to allow medical uses for marijuana


Ohio voters could decide next year whether the state joins the growing trend of allowing the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

The Ohio Rights Group this week kicked off its drive to gather petitions for a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to create a medical marijuana program in Ohio. The Ohio Ballot Board certified the amendment’s language last week, a move that allows the group to begin collecting signatures.

The group, one of several pursuing a ballot issue, would need to gather 385,000 signatures from 44 Ohio counties by July 2014 to make it on the ballot the following November. It only obtained around 5,000 in its last attempt, group members said.

The Ohio Rights Group’s amendment would allow Ohioans 18 years and older (and possibly children, with written permission from a parent or guardian) with qualifying medical conditions to obtain and use marijuana. It would create the Ohio Cannabis Control Commission to set up the regulatory framework to decide who could buy, produce, distribute and sell marijuana within the state.

The amendment would also legalize the production of industrial hemp, a strain of cannabis that is low in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. Hemp is legal in other countries, including Canada, and hemp products, including foods, oils and fabrics, are widely available in the United States.

Nationwide, there has been a slow shift to adopt more legalization efforts. In all, medical marijuana is legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C., according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The closest state to Ohio that allows medical marijuana use is Michigan.

This year, legislators in Illinois and Maryland passed bills to legalize medical marijuana, although Illinois’ is still awaiting the governor’s signature. And last year, Washington state and Colorado became the only states to approve recreational marijuana use.

Nationwide, public sentiment about marijuana is changing to one of ambivalence, said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank. A study he released this month found people generally don’t consider it to be any more dangerous than alcohol, and 72 percent of Americans believe government efforts to enforce marijuana laws “cost more than they’re worth.” But 51 percent say they would feel uncomfortable in the presence of someone using it, he said.

Positions don’t fall down neatly along ideological lines, said E.J. Dionne, Jr., also of the Brookings Institution, who co-authored the study with Galston. That could be because Republicans are nearly as likely as Democrats to have reported past use, he said.

“It is very unlikely we will return to a time where there is strong opposition,” Dionne said.

Mark Caleb Smith, a political scientist at Cedarville University, said in an email he doesn’t think it’s likely Ohio voters, who lean conservative on social issues, would approve a medical marijuana amendment.

“At the same time, we are in a disruptive era…Religious and social conservatives are losing ground in our cultural conflicts, while cultural progressives appear ascendant. Perhaps we will see a continuation of this trend in Ohio,” Smith said.

Proponents say medical marijuana brings needed relief to people with conditions that cause chronic pain and nausea without serious side effects. They compare current laws to alcohol Prohibition of the 1920s.

Opponents question the medicinal value of marijuana, as well as the validity of the medical claims of those who use it.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, a Republican, said marijuana is difficult to regulate and is not accepted by the Food and Drug Administration for medical use.

He said patients would end up sharing — perhaps inadvertently — their marijuana with other people, similar to problems police see with legal painkillers.

“I’m totally against it. I just don’t see one good thing coming from this,” Plummer said.

But Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said American drug policy has failed, and that a new approach is needed.

“We need to be looking at the experience of other countries that have had some success with minimizing society harm by regulating and controlling (marijuana’s) use, and I think that’s the conversation that needs to be had,” he said.

He said the only association between marijuana and violent crime is activity involved in the distribution of it.

“The time and effort that we devote to marijuana control and enforcement just really takes away from the far more serious issue that we have, which is a heroin epidemic,” Biehl said.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but the federal government has indicated it won’t prosecute people who use and grow medical marijuana legally under state laws as long as they don’t transport the drug across state lines, said Karmen Hanson, a program manager for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

To be successful at the ballot, the Ohio Rights Group needs an influx of cash, between $3 million and $5 million, said group secretary/treasurer Mary Jane Borden. The group’s predecessor, the Ohio Medical Cannabis Association, raised just less than $10,000 in 2011 and 2012 combined, according to state records.

Borden chalked up the group’s troubles in 2011 and 2012 to competing for the attention of voters, volunteers and donors amidst a presidential election.

Ohio Rights Group President John Pardee said the group is more optimistic this time around. He pointed to a March 2013 Columbus Dispatch poll that found 63 percent support for legalizing medical marijuana.

“We have 13 months … we will get it done,” Pardee said.

The group hopes medical marijuana will lead to full legalization, if voters warm to the idea, but the same Dispatch poll found Ohio voters oppose making pot fully legal by a 21-point margin.

Abby Smith of our Washington Bureau contributed to this report.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Ohio

Melania Trump's inauguration dress evokes Jackie Kennedy
Melania Trump's inauguration dress evokes Jackie Kennedy

In a look that crossed party lines, Melania Trump wore her admiration for Jackie Kennedy on her sleeves Friday morning as she swept into view on the day of her husband’s inauguration in a sky blue suit dress that channeled Kennedy’s dove gray inaugural outfit 56 years earlier. >> Read more trending stories During...
VICTIM’S FAMILY: God has a purpose...through this tragedy
VICTIM’S FAMILY: God has a purpose...through this tragedy

The 16-year-old victim in the West Liberty Salem High School shooting is identified as Logan Cole. He remains in critical but stable condition at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus according to hospital officials speaking on behalf of his family.  Logan Cole’s family released a statement late Friday afternoon: “We are thankful...
WSU expects fewer foreign students due to ‘Trump effect’
WSU expects fewer foreign students due to ‘Trump effect’

Wright State expects to enroll fewer international students in the short term because of what provost Tom Sudkamp referred to in a trustees meeting on Friday as “the Trump effect.” Sudkamp made the comment, which he said is “commonly used” in higher education, just hours after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation&rsquo...
New degrees could help with Wright State’s budget problems
New degrees could help with Wright State’s budget problems

New degrees at Wright State will offer more options for students but also another source of revenue for the cash-strapped university. Wright State officials took steps Friday to add a new bachelor’s degree program in neuroscience and another in business entrepreneurship, which combined could eventually net the university more than $1.4 million...
First lady Melania Trump: 5 things to know about her inauguration look
First lady Melania Trump: 5 things to know about her inauguration look

The inauguration of President Donald Trump drew hundreds of thousands of spectators, but many had their eyes on First Lady Melania Trump. What would she wear? How will she style her hair? Here's a breakdown of her inauguration look: As is customary for many incoming first ladies, Trump wore clothes by an American designer. Harper's Bazaar reported ...
More Stories