Ohioans could be voting on whether to allow medical marijuana in the buckeye state next year if a group of activists are able to get the issue on the ballot. A former federal official is trying to stop that effort from being successful. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports.
The former deputy director of the office of National Drug Control policy says there’s really no such thing as medical marijuana.
Barthwell: "We don’t have medical Marlboros and we don’t have medical scotch."
And Dr. Andrea Barthwell says Ohio shouldn’t have medical marijuana either. She says the drug is dangerous and addictive for those who use it. And Barthwell says there are other drugs that can now be prescribed that work far better for cancer patients and others who are now getting medical marijuana in other states where it has been legalized.
She says Ohio’s approval of a proposed medical marijuana ballot issue would make life worse for Ohio’s communities and children too. Barthwell says just look at states that allow medical marijuana.
Barthwell: "In these states, there are no laws that prohibit someone under 21 from getting this or require parental permission so kids under 21 can get this. One or two high school seniors in a large suburban high school can supply that school on a weekly basis with enough marijuana for everyone in that school to be high everyday."
Pardee: "Try to find one teenager who can’t find marijuana right now. You can’t find it. Anybody who wants recreational marijuana can find it today."
That’s John Pardee with the Ohio Rights Group, one of the groups that wants to bring medical marijuana to Ohio. He says there are Ohioans who suffer from diseases who need marijuana. He says, contrary to what Barthwell says, cannabis is one of the safest substances that can be used….and he says there are studies to back up his claim.
Pardee: "There has been zero fatalities by using cannabis medications. So if she’s talking about it being dangerous…compared to what? Compared to OxyContin that’s killed thousands of people. Compared to Vicodin that’s killed thousands of people? I’m just at a loss because if she’s supposed to be a doctor, she should be using scientific methods and protocols instead of hyperbole.
Pardee says the fact is that taking the criminal element out of the equation will provide a safe alternative to pain killers for many Ohioans who are suffering from serious diseases.
Pardee: "This opens the doors to cancer and Parkinsons patients who need high quality, regulated therapeutic cannabis that is tailored to their needs. They don’t have that right now. Anyone who wants recreational cannabis in Ohio has that currently. What they are trying to usher is the existing system of prohibition and prohibition is an abject failure. It always has been and it always will be."
But Barthwell says making marijuana available for use with a prescription will only make the drug problem worse in Ohio, in the country and in the world.
Barthwell: "Don’t fool yourself and believe that this mature industry that distributes drugs illicitly in this country is going to go away just because you can buy Marinol at the local Clark gas station. It will operate in secrecy at great profit and continue to sustain itself and bring down every Democratic process in every country from Canada to the farthest reaches of South America in this hemisphere."
But right now, activists are reaching for pens to get supporters of the idea to sign petitions to put the issue on the ballot. Backers will need to collect more than 385 thousand valid signatures in half of Ohio’s counties by early July of next year in order to put the issue on the November 2014 ballot.