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Ohio House passes medical marijuana bill

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Medical marijuana plants for sale at The Farmacy, a popular California medical marijuana dispensary. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Medical marijuana plants for sale at The Farmacy, a popular California medical marijuana dispensary. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives passed a plan 71-26 on Tuesday that would legalize medical marijuana. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, it would allow the legal use of marijuana for specific medical conditions.

Representative Kristin Boggs — a Democrat in Ohio’s 18th District, which includes the campus area — said the House’s Select Committee on Medical Marijuana, as well as several addition amendments that Democrats had suggested, enabled House Bill 523 to be passed in the Republican-controlled House.

Ohioans would continue to be criminalized for the possession, use and sale of cannabis, unless they suffer from a specific medical condition outlined in the bill, such as cancer, glaucoma or epilepsy.

“(Cannabis) is a plant research continually proves to be much less harmful than alcohol, which is celebrated, or at least tolerated, on college campuses,” said Cassie Young, a graduate student studying social work and public affairs at Ohio State, in an email.

Young, also the president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, noted other hurdles the bill poses for patients. As the bill is currently written, both growing cannabis at home and smoking the drug will not be allowed. Young said growing at home is crucial to keeping the drug affordable to patients, and smoking is also one of the most immediate ways to obtain relief.

“The conditions list, as mentioned, is restrictive, and only about 2 percent of the population will qualify, although research suggests cannabis can treat a much wider variety of conditions,” Young added, also noting that any effects of the bill likely won’t be seen for another two to three years.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll that came out on Wednesday shows Ohioans support medical marijuana by 90 percent, and about 52 percent support adults being able to legally possess small amount of marijuana for personal use.

Boggs expressed hope that changes will be made to the bill as it moves on through the Senate.

“One of the changes that my colleagues hope happens in the Senate is the provision that allows people to be terminated from their employment if they have a medical marijuana card,” she said, noting that drug tests can be used to deny job applicants or fire employees. “And the ability to deny them unemployment compensation.”

Young and Boggs both noted the bill will not directly impact college students unless they suffer from some of the ailments that medical marijuana may be used to treat.

Boggs said the people who were heard from most during the consideration of this legislation were children suffering from seizure disorders and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said she thinks the bill would not have passed if introduced a few years ago, considering the evolving views on medical marijuana.

“I think that there was even some testimony today of the legislation getting passed about how this was something the Democrats had introduced on several occasions in prior years and it had never gained the support when it was introduced prior to this time,” Boggs said.

A Senate hearing on the bill was scheduled for Wednesday morning.

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