Koehler, area residents discuss medical marijuana bill

After hearing from many in a crowd of about 50 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Springfield, Koehler said he’s still unsure which way he will vote.

Revised Ohio House Bill 253 was approved by a special committee last week and would prohibit smoking or burning marijuana, but it would allow its use via other methods such as oils, edible forms, as well as by “vaporization” when prescribed by a physician for medical use.

Koehler would have opposed the bill if it allowed smoking. But he thinks in its current form the measure sets forth many of the restrictions needed to ensure medical marijuana is tightly regulated.

He is opposed to several constitutional amendments proposed for November’s ballot that would allow people with prescriptions to grow and smoke their own marijuana.

“It takes it out of the hands of the legislators,” he said of amending the constitution for any reason. “It’s my belief … it would basically be legalizing marijuana for recreational use.”

The state learned in 2015, with the rejection of Issue 3, that 85 percent of Ohio voters would have voted for something if it said “medical marijuana,” he said. This bill is the legislature’s attempt to make that happen in a tightly regulated and responsible way, Koehler said.

Many in attendance Monday who are pro-medical marijuana questioned whether the bill is too strict.

Mike and Tracey Tackett spoke on behalf of their daughter who has had so many thousands of seizures they’ve stopped counting.

Mike Tackett questioned why the proposed laws for prescribing and distributing medical marijuana are so much more restrictive than those for the powerful drugs currently being prescribed to his teenager.

“I would challenge anybody to look up the seizure medications and their side effects,” he said, calling them horrendous. “I hope it’s not going to be so restrictive that there are people still left out who could benefit.”

Others questioned whether insurance will cover the drugs, whether more conditions can be added to the approved list in the bill, and whether a provision allowing cities or counties to opt out of having dispensaries could lead to prohibitive travel in order for patients to get their prescriptions.

Heather Stewart, of Enon, whose daughter also has epilepsy, questioned why the bill would require a new doctor visit and prescription renewal every 90 days.

“Those restrictions are way more severe than what she’s on now,” Stewart said. She and others with suffering loved ones don’t like how CBD oils and other cannabis-based products are discussed with the same stigma as opiates and recreational drug use.

Koehler said it will be the job of the Medical Marijuana Control Commission to address many of those issues as they have up to one year from passage to create rules and then up to another year to implement them.

Several people who spoke out against the bill think there needs to be more testing before moving forward with a reclassification of a drug. The bill would recommend an FDA reclassification of medical marijuana as a schedule II controlled substance. Koehler said he’s heard from many constituents who are afraid of opening up use of marijuana because of the opiate epidemic plaguing the country.

If approved by both houses, Ohio would become the 26th state to legalize some form of medical marijuana.

Koehler takes issue with a few of the finer points in the bill, including possible reciprocity agreements that would give patients from other states with similar medical marijuana laws the same rights to buy and use marijuana in Ohio, and language that includes, “chronic, severe or intractable pain,” as an allowable condition. That opens the door for possible abuse, he said.

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