Monday, April 19, 2010

High anxiety: Ohio legislators to consider bill to legalize medical marijuana

Although polls indicate most Ohioans would support the use of marijuana
for medical purposes, most lawmakers won't support the issue because
they fear they'll be stoned by voters in future elections.

State Rep. Bob Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, co-sponsored a bill
last week that would make Ohio the 15th state to allow medicinal
marijuana. But Hagan said the bill is certain to go nowhere because his
colleagues in the legislature aren't brave enough to pass it.

Hagan told the Associated Press that several conservative Republican
lawmakers have privately told him that they support medical marijuana,
but think it is political suicide to back it publicly.

According to the Ohio chapter of the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), 73 percent of Ohioans support
legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Local legislatures could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said he would strongly oppose
medical marijuana in Ohio. He said doctors have synthetic forms of pot,
which they can prescribe. Also, he said legalizing marijuana for
medicinal use would send mixed signals to children and young adults who
may think the drug is safe to use if it can be prescribed.

"There are a number of drugs available to doctors that will do the same
thing marijuana does," Mincks said. "And I've said this many, many
times: Marijuana and alcohol are gateway drugs. It is just another step
before going to something harder. I've been in this business 40 years
and I've never talked to an addict who went from zero to addict. They
usually started with alcohol and marijuana and then moved on to their
parent's medicine cabinet."

In a press release, Tonya Davis, a Montgomery County resident, medical
marijuana user and a member of NORML, said the proposed Ohio Medical
Compassion Act would help thousands of the state's sick.

"It's time that Ohio stops wasting taxpayers' dollars arresting,
prosecuting and caging up citizens of Ohio for using what science has
proven is medicine," she said in the release. "Ohioans have stood up for
gambling... It's time they fight for me and thousands just like me."

The law would protect patients, doctors, and primary caregivers from
arrest and prosecution, and would establish a regulatory framework to
govern the distribution of marijuana within the state. Patients would be
required to register with the state government so it could ensure that
only patients with debilitating medical conditions have access to the

Conditions that are most commonly treated with marijuana in states where
it is legal include cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, fibromyalgia, multiple
sclerosis and arthritis. Advocates also point out that recent studies
indicate pot may be effective in fighting the onset of Alzheimer's, as
well as reducing tumor growth in lung cancer patients.

Marietta residents Tom and Janice Meyers said they have mixed feelings
on the issue.

"I feel this is a slippery slope," Tom Meyers said. "I think what you'll
end up with is a situation where you have a whole lot of people with
prescriptions when only a handful may really need it."

Janice Meyers said she believes the real intent of the proposal is to
move the state one step closer to legalizing the drug for recreational

"I think that's what most of these movements are all about," she said.
"Sometimes I think they should just legalize it. Other times, I'm not so


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