After hearing from hundreds of witnesses and nearly 25 hours of testimony as part of the Medical Marijuana Task Force, I have sponsored legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. As a practicing physician for more than 20 years, I believe that through the many different perspectives we heard on the task force, the state legislature is positioned to put forward a plan that will serve the best interests of Ohioans.
That Ohio is a ballot initiative state is another reason why I believe it is important that the legislature lead on this issue. Whereas the legislature can more easily make changes down the road to address specific concerns, a ballot initiative forever changes the state’s constitution and has the potential to be inflexible and unresponsive to the future needs of Ohioans.
Polling has shown that Ohioans, by a wide margin, support the legalization of some form of medical marijuana. I have little doubt that it will become a reality in Ohio in the very near future. The question is “How?”
With the encouragement of Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, I introduced House Bill 523, which would legalize medical marijuana, while also putting in place strict safeguards around the product. The bill would establish a Medical Marijuana Control Commission, panel of nine appointed people from diverse backgrounds on the issue that would set many of the rules around the growing, manufacturing, testing and distribution.
Also under the bill, only a physician with a specialized certificate would be permitted to dispense medical marijuana. Ohioans would not be allowed to grow marijuana at home as this is felt to be pseudo-recreational. House Bill 523 protects the idea of local control. If a local jurisdiction does not want growers, manufacturers or distributors within its limits, then it can vote to exclude them.
Finally, the legislation puts in place needed regulations to ensure a drug-free workplace. For the sake of preserving a safe work environment, businesses today and in the future should have the right not to employ a person if he or she cannot pass a drug screening, and this would include medical marijuana.
It is my opinion that the Ohio General Assembly needs to be a leader on this issue because, as public servants, I believe we were elected to lead. As I stated earlier, the legislature failing to act could yield very negative effects for our state through a potential constitutional amendment that would be very difficult to change, regardless of the needs of Ohio’s residents.
Steve Huffman represents Ohio’s 80th District in the House of Representatives. He can be reached at (614) 466-8114 visit www.ohiohouse.gov/stephen-a-huffman