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.
The Associated Press
Marijuana for medical purposes is shown inside a greenhouse at a farm in Potter Valley, Calif. Several statewide efforts to legalize marijuana could finally let those growers come out into the light. Ohio could be following Caliornia’s lead now that a bill has been introduced into the General Assembly to legalize medical marijuana.
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 drug.
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 use.
"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 sure."