After nearly 20 years of trying, proponents of legalizing medical marijuana use in the Buckeye state are celebrating. Statehouse correspondent Jo Ingles has details on a historic vote by the Ohio Legislature that's headed to the governor.
Democratic Sen. Kenny Yuko has been pushing for medical marijuana legislation for years, and he was given the opportunity to preside over the Senate for the historic vote.
“The final count is 18 yea, 15 nay; the bill is passed.”
Republican reservations and support
That slim margin of victory came without the support of Republican Senate President Keith Faber, who says he had a lot of concerns about the plan, though it had been backed by Republican leaders in the House.
“I still have concerns about allowing marijuana use for things that are not scientifically tested and supported. Look, if it was just about kids and epilepsy or cancer patients, as I said before, I don’t know anybody who’d be opposed to that.”
But Republican senators joined by some Democrats did vote to pass the plan. Sen. Bill Seitz says he thinks states should control the issue. And he likes the fact that the bill calls for the federal government to reclassify marijuana and allow more study on it.
“Nobody with a straight face could actually claim marijuana is more harmful than cocaine yet marijuana is on schedule one and cocaine is on schedule two. Now if that isn’t nuts, I don’t know what is.”
Voters vs. legislative control
The Republican sponsor of the bill, Sen. Dave Burke, is a pharmacist. He says he’s remains skeptical about medical marijuana but his constituents want it. And if it’s going to happen, he says he prefers this bill over a potential ballot issue this fall.
“A ballot initiative can’t change. And the ballot initiative that occurred in issue three and may arise in November totally excludes the general assembly from any changes. I hope it’s perfect if that’s the route people go. I do know humans, by their very character, are imperfect.”
Cincinnati resident Nicole Scholten’s 12-year-old daughter, Lucy, suffers from seizures. She says, as a mother, she’s incredibly pleased the Ohio Legislature passed this bill, but when it comes to choosing between it and the plan that could be on the ballot this fall, she has concerns.
“We are going to have to pay attention into the future as regulations are set up, as future shifts in the General Assembly take place and recognizing what is given can be taken away.”
She says it "most certainly" makes her nervous.
What about ballot initiatives?
Aaron Marshall is with the Marijuana Policy Project, the national group that’s working to put a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana on the November ballot. He says this legislative bill falls short.
“There are a lot of Ohioans who were left behind by the plan. Folks with muscular dystrophy; there’s folks with autism; there’s folks with muscle spasms, folks with Huntington’s disease. All of those conditions were not covered by the legislation just passed. There’s also some basic patient-rights issues that were not addressed by this legislation. Patients do not have the right to smoke medical marijuana under the legislation that was just passed nor do they have the right to grow at home.”
Marshall says his group’s proposal would allow those options. He says the effort to get the roughly 305,000 valid signatures needed to put the issue on the fall ballot will continue, regardless of whether Gov. John Kasich signs the bill.