Having a personal tendency towards rational conservatism, I am particularly fond of a Latin phrase “abundans cautela non nocet.” Translated into English, it means “abundant caution does no harm.”  This is exactly the approach that the Ohio General Assembly is taking with regards to the medical marijuana issue.



One of the most dramatic developments in the last couple of years has been the political debate over the legalization of Marijuana.  Last November, almost 64 percent of voters statewide voted against Issue 3, granting a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.  In Medina County, 66 percent of voters cast ballots against it, losing in all but three precincts.  Issue 3 was a bad deal for the state and the citizens and a solid majority of voters saw that. However, at the same time, statewide polling showed support for Medical Marijuana had risen to nearly 90 percent of the Ohio voters.



Consequently, in January of this year leadership in the Ohio House of Representatives created a ten-person Medical Marijuana Task Force including Republican and Democratic members, as well as medical experts, community advocacy groups and law enforcement officials. Over several months the Task Force embraced a publicly methodical and holistic approach in examining and discussing the controversial issue. The task force held seven hearings in all and heard about 25 hours of testimony from more than 100 individuals who testified on all sides of the medical marijuana debate. Among those who testified were medical professionals, experts from around the country, Ohioans suffering from pain and illness, employers, law enforcement officers and representatives from drug addiction facilities.



As a result of these hearings the Republican leadership has recently introduced HB 523.  The legislation would create the Medical Marijuana Control Commission, a nine-person panel appointed by the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker. The commission would be responsible for closely regulating medical marijuana policy in Ohio, including licensing entities involved in the process such as cultivators, retail dispensaries, independent labs and physicians. The bill would allow only for licensed physicians to recommend and dispense marijuana for medical purposes.



If signed into law, medical marijuana legalization would be phased in over a two-year period: One year to promulgate rules and another year to move forward for implementation. From seed to sale, medical marijuana would be tightly regulated and taxed.



A special committee has been formed in the Ohio House of Representatives to conduct hearings and potentially move HB 523 forward for enactment by both houses of the General Assembly. Meetings of the special committee under the Chairmanship of Representative Kirk Schuring are presently underway. I encourage all those interested in the issue to read the proposed legislation, review the reports of the Task Force and share your opinions with the committee.  The information can be found on-line though the House committee page at http://www.ohiohouse.gov/committee/standing-committees and opinions shared with the committee by writing to rep48@ohiohouse.gov.  



In my mind, your involvement in this decision making process is of most importance.  I truly believe that the cautious process chosen by the Ohio House of Representatives is a reasonable and rational means of addressing an issue that has risen to a point of critical decision making. As Yogi Berra famously said, “When you reach a fork in the road, take it.”  I dread seeing another well financed group of business interests try to subvert the Ohio Constitution purportedly to address this issue. Now is the time for the Ohio Legislature to study, deliberate and act in accordance with the best interests of our citizens in consultation with the medical community and those effected citizens.  Your involvement in that decision making is not only valued but essential to the final legislation which will prayerfully avoid any of the harmful effects seen by many states that have already gone this route through less deliberative and cautious means.

 
 
 
  
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