You will not be voting on the legalization of medical marijuana this November after all. Late Friday evening, after considerable discussion, Brandon Lynaugh, campaign manager for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, said the decision was made to suspend the drive to place the issue on the November 2016 Ohio ballot.
“We make this decision with a heavy heart as we will surely disappoint our many volunteers, supporters and patient-advocates who invested considerable time and effort in our movement. It had become increasingly clear following the state legislature’s passage of a medical marijuana law on Wednesday that our ballot issue campaign had arrived at a critical juncture,” Lynaugh said. “With several hundred thousand signatures collected thus far, one option for our movement would have been to continue to pour our resources into obtaining the additional signatures needed to put the issue before voters. But the 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.”
On Wednesday, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 523. The bill will establish a program allowing patients to buy and use marijuana to treat medical conditions with the recommendation of a licensed Ohio physician. However, OMM had been critical of the legislation, saying it did not go far enough but considered it a step in the right direction.
“As we said following Wednesday’s vote, the legislature’s action on medical marijuana was a step forward, and thanks to the intense advocacy efforts of patients and their families, activists and our team the bill was vastly improved before passage,” Lynaugh said. “Removed from the bill was much of the red tape and onerous regulations that would have severely limited patient access and added was a very important provision granting an affirmative defense to qualifying patients beginning this fall. Also stripped from the bill were troubling provisions raising the threshold for pain.”
Lynaugh said there are shortcomings to the legislature’s measure. He said there are a number of qualifying conditions, which should have been included, and OMM believes patients should have the right to smoke and grow their own medical marijuana.
“But, all in all, it is a moderately good piece of legislation passed by lawmakers who were pushed hard by the patient community,” Lynaugh said. “We plan on continuing forward as an advocacy effort to ensure that the state of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, but also working to better the program utilizing our amendment as a roadmap for those improvements.”
State Representative Terry Johnson weighed in on the effort earlier in the week when asked about it by the Daily Times.
“The federal government classifies marijuana as a Class 1 scheduled drug, making legitimate medical research difficult,” Johnson said. “In my opinion, marijuana should have its federal classification changed so we can do further research and possibly develop real medicines that can alleviate medical conditions. One thing I know for certain: we can always strive to do better for our patients and children who are suffering.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.