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Ohio Not Expected to Follow Michigan's Lead on Medical Marijuana


Michigan's recent enactment of medical-marijuana legislation is unlikely to prompt similar action in Ohio, at least in the near-term, the Toledo Blade reported June 1.

Advocates for medical marijuana in Ohio are drafting legislation to be introduced this fall, but have modest expectations for success. The bill is likely to be sponsored by Rep. Kenny Yuko, a Democrat from Richmond Heights who has multiple sclerosis but says he has never smoked marijuana, medically or otherwise. “I have no idea what that's like, but people have told me about the comfort it brings them in dealing with very excruciating illnesses,” said Yuko.

A recent Ohio Poll found 73 percent of state voters generally receptive to the idea of medical marijuana, but a bill would face significant opposition in the Ohio legislature, including from the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. Running a statewide ballot initiative like the one that got medical-marijuana passed in Michigan would be expensive.

“The passage of the issue up there [in Michigan] came through [wealthy Democratic activist] Peter Lewis' money,” said Ed Orlett, a former Ohio state lawmaker and drug-policy reform activist. “We understand that the whole [ballot] effort would cost $2 million. It's a question of priorities. There are efforts in 12 other states, so someone is putting money into those states rather than Ohio.”

Orlett said that an Ohio medical-marijuana bill would face long but not insurmountable odds in the legislature, but chances for passage would be improved if advocates modeled it more closely on the Michigan law. Past medical-marijuana bills in Ohio called for medical users to be allowed to possess up to 7 ounces of the drug, whereas the Michigan law allows only 2.5 ounces per user.

“If you take it down to 3.5 [ounces], then you're in the ballpark,” Orlett said. “We wouldn't stand out.”

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