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Ohio lawmaker backs marijuana bill

Along with pills, treatments and other traditional remedies, patients with certain medical conditions might soon be prescribed a smoke break, as Ohio could become the 15th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana.

House Bill 478, which is sponsored by Democrat Rep. Kenny Yuko and five other representatives, would allow for the growth, dispersion and use of marijuana to become legal for those with a medical need.

“This is an act of compassion,” Yuko said. “It gives people a chance to change their quality of life.”

Passage of the bill is said to be unlikely, and Yuko knows it.

“I know it’s not going to get passed,” Yuko said. “But we’ve got the state of Ohio talking about it, and it’s the right thing to do. The people of Ohio are aware of its potential and with the publicity and attention [the bill] is getting, hopefully someone will come along with some money to help out.”

The legislation is comparable to Senate Bill 343, which was introduced by Democrat Sen. Tom Roberts in the Senate’s last session.

“Qualifying patients,” as stated in Senate Bill 343, would be those with “debilitating conditions,” such as cancer, glaucoma, positive status for HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, injury or disease to the spinal cord and spinal column, among other ailments.

The herb would be used for pain management, alleviating nausea linked with the above conditions, as well as spasms and other chronic symptoms associated with some diseases.

The bill does state that the “cardholder,” or person who is registered as needing the natural drug, must keep the plants they grow out of public view and must not distribute to anyone.

If the legislation doesn’t pass in the House, voters could have the opportunity to be the deciding factor on the issue. This was the case in Michigan in 2008, when voters chose to legalize medical marijuana. It appears that voters in Ohio’s Congressional 24th district, which includes OSU, would have a hard time coming to a majority decision, as there are mixed opinions around campus.

“Medically, it makes sense for it to be legal,” said Candace Anderson, a fourth-year in history. “I think it makes sense for it to be legal anyway because it’s a huge source of revenue, but for medicinal purposes, it makes complete sense.”

Susan Pennington disagrees.

“I think that on its face, it’s good,” said Pennington, 60, office manager at the Initiative in Population Research office. “But in places where they’ve done that, it just becomes a cottage industry where you go in and make up any kind of reason [for needing marijuana] and you get it.”

Byung Baek, a fourth-year in communication, and Patrick Muldovan, an undecided first-year, both said that marijuana use should remain illegal.

However, Kevin Hall, an undecided second-year, said he could see the benefits of marijuana use.

“I mean if it helps, I don’t see the big deal about it,” he said. “It soothes some people down and takes pain away, so that’s all right.”
Colby Brosky didn’t foresee legalization causing much of a stir.

“I think it’s widely used already, so I really don’t think it would be that big of a deal,” said Brosky, a second-year in human nutrition. “It’s readily available, and I know people use it all the time, so it wouldn’t make that much of a difference.”

Passing of this legislation would group Ohio with the 14 other states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Yuko, who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, said the bill would help others with conditions that could benefit from marijuana.

“I’ve never tried [marijuana] in my life, but everyone knows someone who could benefit from this,” Yuko said. “It’s not a gateway drug. We’re not trying to bring back the days of Cheech and Chong.”

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