Medical Marijuana Gaining Support On Ohio's Ballot?

Medical marijuana will continue to be a big item at the ballot box for several states, including Ohio. Like most other states enacting cannabis reform, Ohio is torn between legalization or continued legislation to prevent residents' use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. While debates on the topic could derail efforts from bipartisan lawmakers to tackle medical marijuana, lawmakers are scheduled for two months of work before their break that commences with November's election. In the meantime, the several of the state's advocacy and reform groups are gathering signatures to petition for medical marijuana's placement on the fall ballot.

Each of these group members has until July to gain the required number of 305,591 signatures from at least 44 counties. Governor John Kasich, currently seeking the GOP presidential nomination, has claimed that he is open to legalizing medical marijuana, especially for children that suffer from seizures.

"If the experts come back and say, 'We need this for people who have seizures,' I'm for that," Governor Kasich told Stephen Colbert in his November The Late Show" interview.

Democratic Senator Kenny Yuko of Ohio's Richmond Heights, made mention of his new proposal, which has already gone through one revision, that would require patients to have an established history with their referring physician before offering a medical marijuana recommendation. Although the senator did not offer more details, he did claim there would be more revisions before the bill is introduced.

During a tour of Ohio along with Republican Senator Dave Burke of Marysville, Yuko stated "I don't care what we do or how we do it, as long as we do it," after hearing the community's opinions on medical marijuana.

Yuko, who has multiple sclerosis, has unsuccessfully introduced a number of bills to legalize medical marijuana since 2005. While lacking the support needed from Republicans and his Democratic colleagues, Yuko still must sway lawyers to believe in his objective. Legal representatives are currently concerned about the consequences of marijuana legalization, especially since the federal government still bans it. Recently, the United States Supreme court chose not to enter cross-border marijuana disputes. Yuko believes this decision may help some support his bill and quiet the fears of federal government interference.

Reform groups have also worked with government officials to drive marijuana change in the state. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified a petition from Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. The action comes after the same Attorney General rejected the group's petition attempts in early March. DeWine claimed the verbiage regarding the number of cultivation facilities that could be licensed as the reason. This time, he approved the summary's language as "a fair, truthful statement of the proposal."

In the fall of 2015, efforts to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational use were defeated. Recent polls, however, show Ohioans increasing support for medical marijuana.

Prior research suggests deaths caused by prescription drugs with Opioids (opium) including Vicodin, and OxyContin almost tripled since 1991, with 46 people dying of these overdoses daily in the United States. Yet reports show that states that allow medicinal marijuana have experienced 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2010.

Researcher Colleen Barry of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore reported that marijuana is far less toxic than opioid prescription drugs. Barry claims death from an overdose of marijuana is "basically impossible."

However, some medical professionals, like Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the Chief Medical Officer of the Phoenix House, claims this reduction has more to do with a progressive push to treat addiction, not cannabis. Kolodny believes marijuana is not commonly prescribed for pain relief, even in legal states. "You don't have primary care doctors in these states prescribing marijuana instead of Vicodin."

With so many states debating over medical marijuana reform, how will it sway your choice at the ballot box?

[Photo By Tony Webster |CC BY-SA 2.0 | Wikimedia Commons]