Advocates debate medical marijuana for Ohio

Written by Alan Johnson

Shared from: The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday February 27, 2013 4:31 PM

Medical marijuana isn’t a bad idea, a former Obama administration drug official said today, but it’s wrong to use “smoked marijuana under the pretense of medicine.”
Kevin Sabet, a senior advisor to national drug czar Gil Kerlikowske from 2009 to 2011, spoke at a Statehouse press conference where anti-drug groups blasted two proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendments being circulated in Ohio, potentially for the November ballot.

Nationally known as a crusader against medical marijuana in the traditional form, Sabet said existing drugs, and others in the testing stage, contain the key chemical components of marijuana but are dispensed in pill form. One such drug is Marinol, often prescribed for cancer and AIDS patients.

Advocates of medical marijuana want to legalize marijuana, Sabet added, and are “putting on white coats and pretending to have compassion for the sick and dying.”

The Ohio Ballot Board last year approved two separate issues, the Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2012 and the Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment, clearing the way for supporters of each to gather the 385,245 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot. The group has until July 6 to submit names.

Both issues hope to persuade voters to amend the Ohio Constitution to legalize the use of marijuana to treat chronic pain associated with many diseases and conditions. The Cannabis Amendment is supported primarily by patients, advocates and business people, while the Alternative Treatment Amendment’s most high-profile backer is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Sabet said the experience of 18 states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal show that just 5 percent of those receiving the drug have severe medical problems. He said analyses show the typical user is “a 32-year-old white male with a history of drug abuse problems and no major medical history.” Ailments for which marijuana was most often prescribed were headaches and stress.

Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance, predicted widespread negative consequences if Ohio voters approve medical marijuana. She said Ohio is “in the crosshairs” of national groups targeting states for marijuana initiatives.

Mary Jane Borden, representing, the former Medical Cannabis Amendment organization, said she disagrees with Sabet’s assertion about approved uses of marijuana in medications, such as Marinol. “What we’re missing are other properties that are also beneficial.”

Borden said her group has reorganized and will submit a new petition to the state in few weeks that includes legalized growing and use of hemp, a plant related to marijuana that is grown in Canada but is illegal in the U.S.

She said the group hasn’t decided if will still aim for an amendment on the fall ballot.


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