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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:

Ohio: Patients Would Face New Hurdles Under Senate Medical Marijuana Bill

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The Ohio Senate’s State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday accepted a substitute version of House Bill 523, the narrow and restrictive medical marijuana legislation passed last week out of the Ohio House of Representatives.

“This latest version includes a series of high-cost requirements that will effectively keep many patients from being able to access medical marijuana,” said Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. “These mandates coupled with the legislature’s insistence that home grow be prohibited -- and the Senate’s elimination of a medical marijuana discount program for veterans and low-income Ohioans -- cements this bill as a deeply-flawed measure helping very few patients.”

Also changed on Wednesday in the Senate’s new version was language specifying that a patient’s pain must be “chronic, severe AND intractable” to qualify under a general pain provision. Intractable is often defined in medical dictionaries as “having no relief” or “resistant to cure, relief or control.”

“In essentially making the pain threshold intractable, lawmakers are cutting off access to thousands of Ohioans who have severe, debilitating, but not intractable, pain,” Marshall said.

Ohio: Patients Lose Under House Medical Marijuana Vote

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With the Ohio House voting to approve legislation purporting to offer patients access to medical marijuana, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana on Tuesday released a statement rejecting the narrow measure.

“It’s a shame lawmakers couldn’t have made history with a vote on a substantive and meaningful medical marijuana bill,” said Aaron Marshall, spokesman for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. “Today’s vote will only bring false hope and empty promises to Ohioans suffering from debilitating conditions who need medical marijuana.”

The House legislation suffers from numerous fundamental flaws that would restrict patient access and would take up to two years to be implemented, Marshall said. In addition, the House version leaves many critical decisions to an unelected board that could be stacked with persons openly hostile to medical marijuana.

In contrast, the Ohioans for Medical Marijuana amendment provides access to medical marijuana for thousands of Ohioans immediately upon passage through an affirmative defense and home grow clause and has clear language spelling out regulatory aspects of the plan, according to Marshall.

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