Ohio: Legislature's Embrace of Medical Marijuana Bolsters Amendment Prospects

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With the approval of H.B. 523 by the Ohio Senate and expected concurrence by the Ohio House of Representatives, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana on Thursday announced it will move toward the November ballot with the issue of patient’s rights to medical marijuana supported by the Ohio General Assembly.

"This General Assembly has taken a step forward on this issue,” said Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. “Their support for medical marijuana speaks volumes for eliminating any remaining biases against allowing doctors to recommend this life-enhancing treatment to patients in need.”

"Our Constitutional amendment builds on the legislature’s work by incorporating national best practices and offers voters an opportunity to enact a law free of the horse-trading inherent in the legislative process," Marshall said. "Our amendment also protects the rights of patients in the Ohio Constitution, not leaving this important issue vulnerable to the reach of special interests."

While the legislative bill clears several important societal and policy-making hurdles, it omits a number of critical issues. They include:

• The qualifying conditions list in H.B. 523 is still too limited. The amendment proposed by Ohioans for Medical Marijuana also includes such conditions as muscular dystrophy, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behavior, Huntington's disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome and severe and persistent muscle spasms.

• H.B. 523 prohibits qualifying patients from being able to smoke medical marijuana, regardless of whether their physician approves or not.

• Qualified patients and their caregivers are not allowed to grow small amounts of medical marijuana on their own under H.B. 523.

• H.B. 523 continues to delegate too much legislative authority to boards and commissions to decide critical regulatory and licensing issues.

“We have a commitment to the entire patient community to continue our campaign and bring relief to all those who suffer from these conditions,” said Marshall.