Medical Marijuana High Priority for Legislature

The defeat of Issue 3 last fall was not the end of the debate on marijuana legalization. Voters overwhelmingly rejected Issue 3, which included the legalization of weed for recreational and medical use. However, polls indicate that a majority of Ohioans support allowing medical marijuana.

Seeing these polls, state lawmakers announced plans to study the issue of medical marijuana. The Ohio House created a Medical Marijuana Task Force. The Senate has organized a statewide listening tour.

The 15-member House task force includes three state representatives and 12 public members. Public members include representatives from law enforcement, the medical community, marijuana legalization advocates, and business.

Linda Hondros, our former chair of the board of directors, is the Ohio Chamber’s representative on the task force. Marijuana legalization advocates on the task force include the author of the Issue 3 ballot amendment, as well as the amendment’s largest financial backer.

Last week, the task force held its first meeting. Task force chairman Rep. Kirk Schuring promised an inclusive process. He emphasized that there is no predetermined outcome. Schuring also announced plans to meet six more times between now and the end of March. The task force wants input from Ohioans about the issue. However, it is becoming clear that the goal is to determine how to craft a bill allowing for the use of marijuana for specific medical conditions.

The Senate’s fact-finding mission is being led by Sens. Dave Burke and Kenny Yuko. They will host a series of town hall forums across the state. The forms will gather opinions from Ohioans on whether marijuana should be legal for limited medical use. The first forum was held on Saturday in Cleveland. Three more are set for February in Cincinnati, Toledo, and Columbus.

Even as these processes get underway, at least two ballot issues are being developed that would again put the issue in front of Ohio voters. Possibly as soon as this November. One is being planned by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. The specifics of this proposal have not yet been made public, but the initiative would only be for medical marijuana. The other proposal called the “Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment,” would allow for the use of marijuana for a long list of medical conditions. It would also permit anyone with such conditions to grow weed in their home.

The legislature is moving quickly to examine medical marijuana partially due to the developing ballot issues. Lawmakers would prefer to control how any law concerning marijuana legalization is written. Rather than have the details of Ohio law be determined by an outside group.