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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ohio and House Bill 33 -- Cannabis Decision

The media has been abuzz with news that a bill to legalize marijuana in Ohio has been proposed. The actual content of the proposition is very different from many rumors circulating around the state that claim full-blown Ohio legalization of cannabis is in the balance. House Bill 33, a bipartisan Ohio bill would legalize a very specific type of medical marijuana.

Representative Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, and Representative John M. Rogers, D-Mentor-On-The-Lake, are the primary sponsors of House Bill 33, which would allow Ohio physicians to prescribe a specific oil infused with cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis and low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces a high in users. Seizure patients could then legally possess this extract and participate in clinical trials.

The list of co-sponsors includes members from both sides of the aisle in the GOP-controlled House: Republican Reps. Andy Thompson of Marietta, Terry Boose of Norwalk, Kristina Roegner of Hudson, and Andrew Brenner of Powell; Democratic Reps. Michael Sheehy of Toledo, Heather Bishoff of Blacklick and Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown.

Vivienne Machi of the Dayton Daily News reports, "Through this legislation, the drug would be available to doctors at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

Retherford said he still opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and the commercial sale of medical marijuana, as proposed by several legalization advocates. One such group, Responsible Ohio, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would name just 10 sites for growing marijuana.

“I especially disagree with not only the concept of medical marijuana (sales), but (proposed legislation by) Responsible Ohio also establishes a constitutional monopoly, which I am also opposed to,” Retherford said.

(Vivienne Machi. "Hamilton lawmaker’s bill would allow medication derived from marijuana." Dayton Daily News. February 4, 2015)

Ohio would be the 12th state to legalize low THC, high CBD products for medical use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty three states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for wider medical use.

Anne Saker of Cincinnati!com reports longtime medical marijuana activist Theresa Daniello of Cleveland, founder of Ohio Families CANN, said while her organization is grateful to Retherford for writing the bill, she believes the legislation is too narrow to deliver the intended help. Daniello formed CANN last summer with 50 families of sick children seeking to use medical marijuana to treat a variety of severe ailments including epilepsy.

"We met with Rep. Retherford a week or 10 days ago, and we explained to him that the CBD laws are not working in the 11 statees that have them," Daniello said. "We told him that catastrophically ill children are being used to get these bills passed, and we don't agree with that."

(Anne Saker. "Cannabis advocate: Ohio bill doesn't go far enough." February 6, 2015)

According to a poll in 2014, Cincinnati!com reported an overwhelming majority of Ohio voters believe that the law should change: "Eighty-seven percent of Ohio voters believe medical marijuana use under the care of a doctor should be legal."

Marijuana as medicine? Safety is one reason advocates say they support medical cannabis. Advocates say smoking or ingesting the plant is a safer way to address pain than taking an opiate that could form a habit, lead to an overdose, or move a person closer to using heroin.

"Marijuana is safer than any opiate drug out there," said Ryan, of Blue Ash, who is president of the Ohio chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and also works for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "Opiates kill people," he said. "Marijuana doesn't."

(Chrissie Thompson. "Will Ohio legalize marijuana this year?" Cincinnati!com. May 23, 2014)

What about full-blown legalization? Barry Bard of reports that Ohioans to End Prohibition announced via a press release in January 2015 that the group intends to introduce the "Cannabis Control Amendment" to hopefully land on 2016's November ballot. The bill would be a liberal one that would mirror Colorado's Amendment 64 by legalizing the plant across the board and not limiting production amounts.

That bill faces internal competition. Another similar but more regulated and vague bill announce by ResponsibleOhio in December 2014 would also legalize the plant but restrict its growth and availability far more heavily.

Neither group has laid out their amendments' full language, so the exact regulations and framework of both bills remains relatively unknown. .

To qualify for the 2016 ballot, each group would need to collect over 305,591 signatures from Ohio's citizens. However, last year, a bill that would've placed medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot fell over 250,000 signatures short of its goal.

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