COLUMBUS - Gov. John Kasich signed a plan to legalize medical marijuana into law Wednesday, making Ohio the 25th state to approve its use.
Those suffering from epilepsy, chronic pain and the side effects of cancer treatments could soon be able to treat their pain with marijuana. Despite years of delays and opposition, state lawmakers passed a plan in May to legalize medical marijuana for those with a doctor's referral. Groups working to place a rival medical marijuana proposal on the fall ballot put pressure on legislators, but ultimately dropped their efforts after the lawmakers approved a plan.
Kasich was quiet about whether he supported legalizing medical marijuana, saying only that he would follow doctors' recommendations and wanted to help children in pain. But he ultimately signed the bill, which will take effect in 90 days.
While medical marijuana will be legal in three months, it will take much longer to set up rules for growers, dispensaries and patients. So, what comes next?
How soon can I buy medical marijuana?
If they have a doctor's recommendation, Ohioans can purchase medical marijuana from other states where it is legal as soon as Sept. 6 and bring it back into the state. Then, the Department of Commerce will have about eight months to create rules for those who will grow marijuana. After that, cultivators will need time to start growing medical marijuana, and dispensaries will set up shop. Around that time, doctors must start applying to the Ohio State Medical Board for a certificate to recommend medical marijuana.
All this means Ohioans won't be able to buy medical marijuana in-state until 2017 or early 2018. Note: Once the Ohio system is set up, Buckeyes will no longer be allowed to bring in marijuana from other states.
What kind of marijuana can I use?
Here's the big sticking point for many marijuana advocates: Under this law, it's still illegal to smoke marijuana – even if you buy it out of state. Vaporizers, edibles and oils are OK.
It goes without saying: Recreational use of marijuana also is still illegal under this law.
Which medical conditions will qualify for medical marijuana?
AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn's disease, epilepsy or another seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, pain that is either chronic and severe or intractable, Parkinson's disease, positive status for HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette's syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and ulcerative colitis.
Who will grow the marijuana?
No one may grow medical marijuana at home or for personal use. But those who want to grow medical marijuana commercially must apply with the Ohio Department of Commerce. They cannot grow marijuana within 500 feet of a school, public playground, church, public park or public library. Those with certain criminal convictions are disqualified from growing marijuana.
Who can recommend it?
Physicians who are certified by the State Medical Board of Ohio. They could be disqualified from certification if they have a financial interest in growing marijuana, have lost their license to practice medicine or have been convicted of certain crimes. These doctors must attend at least two hours of training on diagnosing and treating conditions with medical marijuana.
Can I be fired for using medical marijuana?
Yes. Despite opposition from some Democrats, the law would allow employers to fire employees who violate office policies against marijuana use – even if the marijuana was recommended by physicians. If you are fired for marijuana use, you will not receive unemployment compensation either.
Can I vote on medical marijuana in November?
No. Several groups were interested in placing a proposal on the fall ballot, but each decided against it. The most prominent, Marijuana Policy Project and its local affiliate Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, dropped its bid just three days after senators passed the medical marijuana bill. The effort was too costly and unpredictable in a presidential election year.
"(T)he reality is that raising funds for medical marijuana policy changes is incredibly difficult, especially given the improvements made to the proposed program by the Ohio General Assembly and the fact that the Governor is expected to sign the bill," said Brandon Lynaugh, campaign manager for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, in a statement.
On Nov. 3, 2015, voters in Ohio will vote on two different ballot initiatives related to the legalization of marijuana. One initiative, Issue 3, was placed on the ballot by citizens and would legalize marijuana for both medical and personal use in Ohio.
The second initiative, Issue 2, was placed on the ballot by the legislature and would essentially negate Issue 3. Issue 2 would prohibit using the Ohio constitution to grant a monopoly, something the marijuana initiative does by naming only 10 sites for commercial cultivation of marijuana. (Fun fact: one parcel is partly owned by Nick Lachet of 98 Degrees and Jessica Simpson fame.) Issue 2 also contains a provision that would specifically prohibit Issue 3 from taking effect.
So clearly Ohio voters confront a confusing choice. New polling data suggests many are still figuring it out. Somehow, a majority of registered voters supports the legalization initaitive, and a majority supports the initiative that would prohibit legalization from taking effect.
The poll was conducted by me and two other professors from Kent State University, Greg Gibson and Anthony Vander Horst, teaming with the Cleveland NBC affiliate, WKYC. The poll sampled 515 registered voters in Ohio and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Consistent with previous polling, our poll found that a majority of Ohioans (84 percent) support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. A smaller majority (58 percent) supports legalizing it for personal use.
The poll also presented voters with summaries of the ballot issues using the language that will appear on their actual ballots and then asked explicitly how they would vote on each initiative.
The ballot wording frames the initiatives around the issue of monopoly. However, this appeared not to affect support for legalization: the percent supporting legalization via Issue 3 (55 percent) is very close to the percent that support legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
However, attempts to frame legalization around the use of marijuana for medical purposes also seem to have failed. Support for the initiative is lower than support for medical marijuana in the abstract.
Now we get to the puzzling part: a majority also supports Issue 2. And even more puzzling: voters’ preferences on each initiative really aren’t that strongly related, even though one initiative explicitly nullifies the other. About 56 percent of voters that plan to vote yes on Issue 2 also plan to vote yes for Issue 3.
So what is likely to happen on Election Day? Turnout in recent off-year elections has varied from 31 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2009 to 47 percent in 2011. Off-year electorates are, unsurprisingly, older and more Republican than the entire eligible electorate.
Our poll finds that these voters are less likely to support legalization via Issue 3, but not necessarily more likely to support Issue 2. In short, it is probably too close to call whether voters will legalize marijuana on Nov. 3.
If both initiatives do pass, the only certainty is litigation. The Ohio Constitution states that when conflicting initiatives pass, the one with the most votes prevails. However, the Constitution also enacts legislature-sponsored amendments differently than citizen-sponsored amendments. The latter become law immediately, whereas the former are not law until 30 days have passed.
Ryan Claassen is a professor of political science at Kent State University. For the full report, question wording, toplines, and additional information about the survey, check out WKYC.com.
by Jackie Borchardt
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The leader of ResponsibleOhio on Thursday touted its proposal to legalize marijuana as a solution for Ohioans who consume cannabis to treat a medical condition.
But critics, including marijuana advocates, have said the group's leaders and investors are "pot profiteers," driven by a lucrative recreational marijuana market instead of helping sick Ohioans obtain medicine.
In ResponsibleOhio's plan, cannabis could be grown at only 10 sites that have been promised to campaign investors. Tax revenue from marijuana sales would fund public services, marijuana research and drug addiction treatment programs.
ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said drug dealers are making a lot of money in Ohio right now, and none of that money is benefiting the public. James said while Ohio waits to legalize, chronically ill Ohioans go without treatment.
"This isn't rhetoric -- this is reality," James said at a forum sponsored by the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland. "The reality is we've waited 18 years for the Statehouse to do something. They're incapable of doing anything with regards to medical marijuana."
James gave examples of Ohioans who have used marijuana to treat seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug-Free Action Alliance, said individual stories ignore the consequences of full legalization, such as increasing youth access to the drug.
"There are a handful of people who really do need this, but we have a whole society of people out there who are going to be impacted by this policy change and not in a good way," Seidel said. "When youth think there's nothing wrong with it, they're going to increase the use of it."
Thursday's mini-debate between James and Seidel was a preview of what Ohio voters will hear in the coming months as ResponsibleOhio attempts to qualify for the November ballot. The group has raised more than $36 million from campaign backers to collect the signatures required to get on the ballot and to sell their idea to voters.
The two sparred on ResponsibleOhio's plan, the environmental impact of growing marijuana, and how medical marijuana might benefit Ohioans.
Seidel said Ohioans would abuse the two-tiered system in ResponsibleOhio's plan to buy marijuana as a medical patient, which would not be taxed like retail marijuana.
"What we're saying is we can't have the abuse at the expense of our citizens and our children," Seidel said.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Another pro-marijuana organization, Ohio Rights Group, is proposing legalizing medical marijuana and industrial hemp.
Four states -- Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska -- have legalized marijuana for personal use. At least three other Ohio groups are working on full legalization constitutional amendments.
James called Colorado the "wild west of weed" because there are few limits on who can grow commercial cannabis. James said limiting commercial growing and home growing to four flowering plants per household would smother the black market.
Seidel said ResponsibleOhio seeks to commercialize marijuana like tobacco companies.
"These people are making big investment dollars into these facilities and they're going to expect a return on it and to expect a return on it, you're going to have to sell a lot of marijuana," Seidel said.
Ohio billionaire bankrolling Mass. marijuana question
Money over common sense, the American way. -UA
BOSTON - A proposed ballot question that would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Massachusetts is being bankrolled almost entirely by an Ohio billionaire who has backed similar efforts in other states.
According to state campaign finance reports, Peter Lewis, chairman of the board of the auto insurer Progressive Corp. contributed $525,000 to the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, which is supporting the question.
That accounted for virtually all the $526,167 raised by the group in 2011.
Lewis has also backed pro-marijuana efforts in Ohio and Washington.
The Massachusetts ballot question would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis to get permission from their doctors to use marijuana.
The plan also calls for the state to register up to 35 nonprofit medical treatment centers around the state to distribute the marijuana.
A public relations firm representing the Committee for Compassionate Medicine said the goal of the question is "to ensure that Massachusetts patients have the same access to the necessary medical resources to fight debilitating diseases that are available in sixteen other states."
"Peter Lewis and others have provided the initial funding to ensure the Committee for Compassionate Medicine qualified for the November 2012 ballot and to establish a grassroots political organization and fundraising infrastructure for that effort," the statement said.
With that financial boost, the group is hoping to draw thousands of supporters to help convince voters to approve the measure if it reaches the November ballot.
Critics of medical marijuana initiatives say weakening the prohibition against the drug could send the message to young people that smoking pot is no big deal, ultimately encouraging more teens to experiment both with marijuana and harder drugs.
Under the ballot question, the new treatment centers would be authorized to acquire, cultivate, possess and process marijuana, including the development of related products such as food, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments.
Those patients allowed to possess marijuana would be issued registration cards by the state Department of Public Health after a physician determines in writing that they have one of the qualifying medical conditions.
Nothing in the ballot question changes state laws against driving under the influence, forces health insurers to cover the expense of the marijuana, or requires employers to allow for on-site medical use of marijuana.
The bulk of the money contributed by Lewis - $350,000 - went to hire professional signature gatherers to collect the tens of thousands of signatures needed to guarantee the question a spot on the November ballot.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts also received $9,000 in consulting fees, according to the records with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
It’s not the first time Lewis has waded into the debate about expanding access to marijuana.
Lewis is helping fund a campaign in Washington state to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use.
That question - which would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise tax on wholesale and retail sales of marijuana - appears headed for the November ballot in Washington.
And in his home state of Ohio, Lewis said last year that he was seeking proposals for a medical marijuana ballot issue for 2012.
Last month, backers of a ballot question to legalize medical marijuana were given the OK by the Ohio attorney general’s office to begin collecting signatures to put it on the November ballot.
The amendment to Ohio’s constitution would also allow those with a debilitating medical condition - including cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and Crohn’s disease - to use, possess, produce and acquire marijuana and paraphernalia.
It would also authorize vendors to make and distribute the otherwise illegal drug and set up a state oversight commission.
If the Massachusetts question lands on the November ballot it won’t be the first time that voters here have been asked to change state law regarding the drug. Generally they have been receptive.
In 2008, Massachusetts voters overwhelming backed a 2008 initiative which decriminalized the possession of an ounce of less of marijuana. The law instituted a $100 civil fine instead.
Then in 2010, advocates placed 18 nonbinding advisory questions on local ballots in communities across the state to get a sense whether Massachusetts voters would support another overhaul of marijuana laws.
Nine of the questions supported the use of marijuana for medical reasons while another nine backed legalizing the drug outright, allowing the state to regulate and tax it.
Voters responded to the questions with a resounding "yes." Support ranged from 54 percent in some districts to up to 70 percent in others.
Billionaire May Try to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Ohio
Fifteen states, according to the request for proposals, have made marijuana legal for qualified patients, most through the passage of similar voter initiatives. The first was California in 1996.
Now Lewis is considering pushing it through in his home state of Ohio. That’s where Progressive (nyse: PGR), the auto insurer founded by his father and run by Lewis for many years, is headquartered. Lewis, who now spends much of his time in Florida, gave up his CEO role in 2000 but remains chairman. About 90% of his net worth is held in shares of Progressive.
“Of the states that continue to prohibit medical use of marijuana, Ohio stands out as having particularly high levels of voter support,” stated the RFP, “This provides an opportunity to enact a new law that will directly help patients and to do so in a manner that will serve as a model for other states.” The goal of the proposals, due May 15, is not just to pass a voter initiative legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio but to design a campaign that could create a model for future campaigns in other states. Funding will be based on whether someone can make a convincing case that Ohio is the best state in which to win.
“You shouldn’t take it as a given that there will be a ballot initiative this campaign,” said Graham Boyd, Lewis’ lawyer and adviser, “But we want to see proposals.” He would not comment on whether Lewis is considering conducting similar ballot initiatives in other states.
Lewis has already given millions to the reform group, Marijuana Policy Project including $900,000 in 2010. He also gave $200,000 in support of California’s Proposition 19, the bill that sought unsuccessfully last November to legalize marijuana in California. Other billionaires who gave money in support of that bill include George Soros and Facebook billionaires Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker.
Lewis may have personal reasons for being so passionate about medical marijuana. He was once arrested for cannabis possession in New Zealand; his lawyer told the court he uses the drug to combat pain from a partial leg amputation.
Thanks to Alan Johnson, a reporter at the Columbus Dispatch, who first tipped me off to this story. Here is his piece.
- BUY PROGRESSIVE INURANCE!!!!