Medical marijuana proponents are continuing efforts to bring legalization of the drug to Ohio voters in November.
Libertarian candidate for governor Charlie Earl announced his endorsement for the “Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment” earlier this month, and John Pardee, president of the Ohio Rights Group that’s pushing to get the amendment on the ballot, praised Earl for his support in a recent news release.
“It clearly shows that attitudes of Ohio’s political candidates are beginning to align with those Ohio voters who support the medicinal use of cannabis by almost nine to one,” Pardee said.
But local residents had some mixed thoughts about the issue.
“I probably wouldn’t support it, although our daughter-in-law does use marijuana for medical purposes. In fact, they moved from Maryland to Colorado where medical use is legal,” said Clifford Peckens, 67, of Fleming.
Peckens’ wife, Velma, 71, said their daughter-in-law suffers from a condition that affects the nerve endings in her body.
“I think using medical marijuana is OK if it helps ease the pain for someone who may have cancer, for example,” she said.
Joe Sowards, 63, of Marietta, said if medical use of marijuana is allowed, it should be administered with care.
“It’s like all drugs that have been developed for a valid purpose-they can all be abused,” he said. “It will depend on how it’s regulated. I think for chemotherapy patients or others with debilitating nausea and pain the use of marijuana may be justified.”
Nikki Hanaway, 20, a Marietta College student from Columbus, would not favor using marijuana for medicinal purposes.
“I’ve heard that in Colorado there were some hospital patients who were given too much of it,” she said. “I’d rather see research done to improve the other drugs we already have. And we need to know more about medical marijuana.”
Fellow student Emily Gummere, 18, of St. Clairsville, agreed.
“I wouldn’t really want legalization of medical marijuana to happen,” she said. “It may seem like a good idea, but people abuse the legal drugs we already have. What would they do with marijuana? We need to do a lot more research.”
Marietta residents Terry and Marilyn Perrine, both in their 60s, expressed concern about legalizing pot.
“I think the local police have enough on their hands,” Marilyn said. “Would they let people drive who had been using this marijuana?”
Terry said there’s no question where they stand.
“We wouldn’t support this issue,” he said.
The ORG is seeking a total 385,247 signatures from voters in at least 44 of the state’s 88 counties in order to have the issue placed on the Nov. 4 ballot.
To be eligible for the ballot, the petition must be signed by a minimum of 5 percent of registered voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election in each of those 44 counties.
According to the ORG web site, ohiorightsgroup.org, enough signatures have been obtained in only four counties, including Athens, Hocking, Marion and Lucas counties.
A minimum of 1,061 signatures are needed from Washington County voters, and that quota had not been met as of Sunday.
Of the surrounding counties, only Athens had met the required signatures by Sunday, with 452 voters signing on.
In Monroe County a minimum of 266 signatures are needed, 262 in Noble County, and 241 in Morgan County.
The signatures have to be collected and turned into the Ohio Secretary of State’s office by July 2 in order to place the issue on the November ballot.
While Ohioans could potentially OK medical use, it’s much less likely they would back legalizing use of the drug for other reasons, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
The survey indicated that 87 percent of Ohio’s voters would support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, but only 51 percent support allowing possession of a small amount of pot for “recreational use.”
Marijuana’s medical benefits have been touted for treatment of a variety of health concerns, including HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, breathing and gastrointestinal disorders, seizures, glaucoma, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, nausea due to chemotherapy, pain, Tourette’s Syndrome, and various psychological issues.
But for each of the beneficial conditions there are also medical risks.
For example, the U.S. Institute of Medicine warns that marijuana can suppress the immune system of HIV/AIDS patients, making them more prone to infections. In addition the institute reports there’s no evidence that migraines are relieved by marijuana, noting that some people’s headaches have actually increased after using pot.
Twenty U.S. states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana to date.