Will Lawmakers or Activists Legalize Medical Marijuana in Ohio?

On the heels of Ohio lawmakers' announcement that they will introduce a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, Ohio's ballot board certified a second medical marijuana initiative on Thursday, bringing the tally of plans for medical marijuana in Ohio up to three. The elected officials' plan, announced with few details on Wednesday, is more restrictive than activists', and would create a committee to finalize rules over the next year. Sponsors hope the bill will make it to Ohio Governor John Kasich’s desk by summer.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said the legislature’s announcement proved “we are taking this extremely seriously,” and that continuing the ballot process in light of the announcement would be "extremely irresponsible." Activists disagree, and say that while they commend the legislature for moving forward on medical marijuana, will continue to push their own less-restrictive plans.

"Lawmakers often dislike initiatives and assume they could draft better laws. With all due respect, they have spent a couple months looking at this issue and we’ve been working on it for a couple decades," Marijuana Policy Project’s Mason Tvert told Cincinnati.com

The legislature's unfinished bill has not been described in detail, but would reportedly legalize medical marijuana for residents older than eighteen, prohibit home grow, and allow communities to ban dispensaries like they can liquor sales. The ballot initiative by Marijuana Policy Project’s Ohioans for Medical Marijuana is not so strict, and would allow adults 21 years and older to grow up to six plants with a doctor’s recommendation. The Grassroots Ohioans initiative approved for signature-gathering Thursday contains no requirement for a doctor's referral or regulatory structure at all, and is so loose the group is having trouble writing the law. 

In an email to HIGH TIMES, Tvert said that lawmakers do not have a good track record for creating effective medical marijuana programs, and this particular legislature’s plan is unclear and could be slow to implement. “It would be foolish to assume the legislature, which has failed to act on this issue for years, will actually pass a bill in a matter of months,” Tvert said, “We don’t know what their proposal will end up looking like, whereas we’re confident that the measure we’re proposing is very tightly worded and will produce a sensible, fair, and compassionate medical marijuana program.” 

Tvert added that his group has “significant concerns” about the state’s reported plan to require physicians receive special certification and report every 90 days on the number of recommendations they wrote and why. “I could see a lot of doctors not wanting to jump through those hoops or being fearful of it in light of conflicting federal law. It would have a chilling effect on doctors and it is entirely unnecessary,” he said. 

Tvert anticipates debate among legislators with varying opinions on a regulatory model, adding that “once they start wheeling and dealing in backroom meetings, who knows what they might end up with.” 


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