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Medical Marijuana Supporters Urge Voters To Put Ill Ohioans First In Voting Decision

Backers of Issue 3, the proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana in Ohio, say passage is a matter of life and death for some Ohioans. 

Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports on the debate over the medical marijuana part of the proposal.

After first raising questions about Issue 3, an organization that’s been fighting for medical marijuana in Ohio is now urging a “yes” vote because they say it has a strong medical marijuana component to it. The Ohio Rights Group’s Mary Jane Borden says it would allow many different artisanal marijuana business opportunities.

“It completely breaks the frame of a monopoly because you could have as many as 100, 200, depending on the number of sites that want to participate in the program and I think most will because they will realize that what they are doing is innovative, competitive and to the benefit of all Ohioans.”

Leeann Barbee is one of those Ohioans who says she stands to benefit.

“In 2012, I was on 20 different pills a day.”

Barbee suffers from six different chronic illnesses including degenerative disc diseases, Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia. She had been on narcotics that she says left her addicted, unable to function normally. A friend suggested medical marijuana. She tried it.

“It’s amazing the turn-around where I was on legal pharmaceutical medications, not living a life. Now here I am treating myself illegally and I’m living a better life than I have in over a decade.”

Tara Cordle wants to try medical marijuana for her nine year old son who suffers from severe epilepsy. He can’t go to school because he has too many seizures and is on heavy duty medicines.

“One of these prescriptions he takes three times a day is Klonopin which is a heavy narcotic. He is addicted to it. We cannot get him off of it. It causes him to not only have seizures but withdrawal seizures as well.”

If Issue 3 passes, Dr. Suresh Gupta will be the owner of the marijuana facility in Central Ohio that will grow medical marijuana and host a research operation. He says marijuana would be a safer alternative than the heavy narcotics he now prescribes at his Dayton area pain management facility.

“There is absolutely no doubt. You know I work in the hospitals, in the E.R.’s and now I’m in private practice. I have yet to see a patient brought in by ambulance to the E.R. with a marijuana overdose. Never.”

Backers of medical marijuana say it has real value to patients but big drug companies and politicians and doctors that depend on them fear it would hurt their businesses. But Curt Steiner with the opposition group to Issue 3, Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, says it’s important to remember Dr. Gupta would be the one of the major investors in the ten specified growing sites that would be making money if this issue passes.

“Dr. Gupta and others – these people are monopolists. They are trying to buy their way into the constitution so they can corner the market so they can grow, cultivate, sell and commercialize marijuana in Ohio for both recreational and medical purposes. And they can’t run away from that.”

Besides, Steiner says, Issue 3’s medical marijuana component is weak at best.

“And what our legal analysts have told us, Issue 3 doesn’t even require them to do medical marijuana so what they are trying to do is use medical marijuana as a political issue when in fact, what the issue is all about is putting a monopoly in the constitution and making huge profits on recreational marijuana.”

Issue 3 backers dispute that and say the medical marijuana part of it is solid. Regardless, Tim Maglione with the Ohio State Medical Association says his group, which represents doctors throughout Ohio, thinks there just isn’t enough good science to back up the medical marijuana claims of Issue 3’s supporters.

“There are some clinical trials out there with limited sample sizes with limited types of study that show it may have some effective use but until we can get the gold standard clinical trial processed through on medical marijuana, there are other alternatives that can be available for individuals who have different ailments outside of the marijuana use.”

In the end, Issue 2 could be the poison pill for Issue 3. State officials say Issue 2, the anti monopoly ballot measure, if IT’S approved, would not allow Issue 3 to take effect if it passes. It is a good shot that if both issues are okayed by voters, the future of marijuana in Ohio will end up in the courts.

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