Two Groups Seek Vote on Medical Marijuana

Two different groups are moving ahead with plans to put medical-marijuana issues to a statewide vote in Ohio next year.

While Cleveland billionaire Peter Lewis already had sent up smoke signals about organizing and funding a medical-marijuana ballot issue, another group quietly has been laying the groundwork for a constitutional amendment.

If approved by voters, the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 would establish a regulatory system modeled after the Ohio State Liquor Control system. 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 prescription and would be subject to state and local sales taxes.

Qualified purchasers could buy 60 grams of marijuana at a time and possess and transport up to 200 grams (about 7 ounces). They also could grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use, under the proposal. Permits would be required to cultivate and sell marijuana.

Under current Ohio law, possession of 200 grams could trigger a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

Backers estimated it would cost roughly $360 an ounce (28 grams), based on the price in other states, including Michigan and Colorado.

Teresa Daniello, 43, of Cleveland, said backers of the ballot proposal are a “core group of patients” who want Ohioans to be able to use medical marijuana for specific illnesses and to ease the suffering of those with terminal diseases.

“I am a patient. I do not want to be criminalized, nor do I want to be on 12 Percocets (a prescription painkiller) a day for the rest of my life.”

Daniello said she has a chronic problem with muscle spasms in her thoracic region; she’s resorted to frequent shots and painful spinal blocks to deal with the pain.

She said backers are “very confident” they can obtain the required signatures, in part because of a recent survey that showed 72 percent of those polled favored legal use of medical marijuana.

She said many people face a difficult 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.”

To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, supporters first must gather 1,000 valid signatures of registered voters to submit language to the attorney general for approval. They then can begin collecting 385,245 signatures – the minimum number to qualify for the ballot.

A formal proposal has not surfaced from Lewis, who is chairman of Progressive Insurance, the nation’s third-largest auto insurer. He has given millions over the years to marijuana-related causes.

Earlier this year, Lewis put out a request for proposals though 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 yesterday.

Beginning with California in 1996, 15 states (including Michigan) have legalized marijuana for medically qualified patients, mostly through ballot issues.

A statewide medical-marijuana vote is a bad idea, said 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. We don’t vote on antibiotics. We don’t vote on antihistamines.

“If we’re going to look at the medical value, let’s treat it and study it like medicine,” Seidel said.

– Article originally from The Columbus Dispatch.