Ohio: Senate Panel Votes For Medical Marijuana Bill; May Fall Short In Full Senate

OhioMedicalMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Ohio Senate committee voted 7-5 on Wednesday morning for House Bill 523, legislation that would legalize medical marijuana for certain conditions, but the bill may not have enough support to pass in the full Senate.

About a dozen of 23 Senate Republicans and two or three or 10 Democrats said they are willing to vote for the bill, with 17 votes needed for passage, report Alan Johnson and Jim Siegel at The Columbus Dispatch.

In Wednesday's Government Oversight Committee hearing, four Republicans joined Democratic Sen. Michael Skindell in opposing the medical marijuana bill.

If the Senate does pass HB 523, the House must then go along with amendments made to the legislation; it had passed a pre-amended version. Assuming both chambers come to an agreement -- with lawmakers not due back for session until after the November election -- the bill would then go to GOP Gov. John Kasich, who said on Tuesday that he "favors the concept" of medical marijuana. As for this specific bill, "I have to look at it," the Governor said.

Passage of the bill, introduced just six weeks ago, would be a nationwide landmark, because it would mean 25 states -- half the USA, plus D.C. -- allow medicinal cannabis in some form. Part of the reason lawmakers passed the bill with such alacrity is they want to head off a medical marijuana ballot issue which could be on November's ballot, and they want to start their lengthy summer vacation, reports Laura A. Bischoff at the Dayton Daily News.

This all sets up a conflict with Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, a local group financially sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project. A ballot issue sponsored by that group would allow patients to grow and smoke their own marijuana, something lawmakers oppose.

Kasich said he will "as actively as my body can carry me" fight any ballot issue amending the Ohio Constitution to allow smoking and home-growing of cannabis.

“We think it’s seriously flawed and is not going to do the job for patients and advocates across Ohio,” said Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, of the legislation. “It sets up a system that only a state bureaucrat could love, punting decisions to four different bodies stacked with state appointees.”

Marshall said that his group “absolutely” will go ahead with the ballot initiative, even if the law is signed by Kasich. The group has 16 offices around the state staffed by paid signatures collectors, as well as 500 volunteers. He said the group collected thousands of signatures at the three-day Rock on the Range music festival in Columbus last weekend.

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana must submit 305,591 valid signatures of registered voters by July 6 to qualify for the ballot.