Two different groups are moving ahead with plans to put medical marijuana before Ohio voters next year.
Cleveland billionaire Peter Lewis is organizing and funding a medical marijuana ballot issue, while another group has been quietly laying the groundwork for a constitutional amendment, reports Alan Johnson at The Columbus Dispatch.
If approved by voters, the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 would establish a regulatory system modeled after the Ohio State Liquor Control system. (OK, that seems a little strange — why would a medicine be controlled by the liquor board?) There would be an Ohio Commission of Cannabis Control, plus a state division and superintendent to run it.
Marijuana purchases would require a doctor’s authorization and would be subject to state and local sales taxes.
Qualified patients could buy 60 grams of marijuana at a time, and possess and transport up to 200 grams, about seven ounces. They would be allowed to grow up to 12 cannabis plants for personal use under the proposal. Permits would be required to cultivate and sell marijuana.
Under current Ohio law, possession of 200 grams of pot would be a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
Backers estimate legal medical marijuana would cost about $360 an ounce (ouch), “based on the price in other states, including Michigan and Colorado.” (Let me take a moment here and send out gratitude to the universe for Seattle’s $250 ounces.)
Backers of the ballot proposal are a “core group of patients” who want Ohioans to be allowed to use marijuana for specific illnesses and to ease the suffering of those with terminal diseases, said Teresa Daniello, 43, of Cleveland.
“I am a patient,” Daniello said. “I do not want to be criminalized, nor do I want to be on 12 Percocets [a prescription narcotic painkiller]a day for the rest of my life.”
Danielllo said she has chronic muscle spasms in her thoracic region; in the past, she has resorted to frequent shots and spinal blocks to deal with the pain.
Backers are “very confident” they can obtain the required signatures to make the ballot, in part due to a recent survey that showed 72 percent of those polled favor legal use of medical marijuana, Daniello said.
According to Daniello, many patients face an excruciating choice.
“They can choose to suffer with the horrible, debilitating effects of their illness, or risk arrest and years in prison for using medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering,” she said.
To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, supporters must gather 1,000 valid signatures of registered voters to submit language to the attorney general for approval. They can then begin collecting 385,245 signatures, the minimum number to qualify for the ballot.
As for the other group pushing for medical legalization in Ohio, a formal process has not yet surfaced from billionaire Lewis, who is chairman of Progressive Insurance, the nation’s third-largest auto insurer. He has given millions over the years to pro-marijuana causes.
Earlier this year, Lewis requested proposals through his California attorney, Graham Boyd, for an Ohio medical marijuana issue to “create a model for future campaigns in other states.” Proposals were to be submitted by May 15. Boyd could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Any drive to legalize medical marijuana wouldn’t be complete without a few fact-free naysayers. Enter Marcie Seidel of the Drug-Free Action Alliance.
“Our conclusion is that the use of marijuana as medicine should not be a legislative or voter decision,” Seidel said. “We don’t vote on antibiotics. We don’t vote on antihistamines.”
We don’t throw people in cages for using them, either, Marcie.