Strict medical marijuana rules needed

Ohioans who shot down a get-rich-quick marijuana legalization scheme last year may vote differently if looking at a ballot issue allowing medicinal use of the drug. That may be in the thoughts of state legislators considering a law to allow the practice.

Voters saw through Issue 3 on the ballot last fall, defeating it soundly. Fewer than 37 percent of those casting ballots said yes to the plan, which would have approved production and sale of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use. The catch was that had Issue 3 been adopted, it would have created a constitutional monopoly benefiting a few investors in marijuana growing sites.

A substantial number of voters told reporters they wished they could have seen their way clear to vote in favor of the measure, however. They wanted to allow medicinal use of marijuana, they explained.

Use of the drug to help those suffering from certain diseases and injuries remains somewhat controversial. Proponents, including many in the health care community, insist it provides important benefits.

A ballot issue restricted to legalizing medicinal use of marijuana could pass in Ohio. But how broad it would be depends on who writes the proposal and gets it on the ballot.

Rest assured, some of those behind Issue 3 last year have thought of trying again with a medicinal-use proposal broad enough to benefit them financially. At the same time, such a plan could lack necessary safeguards to ensure only those with legitimate health care needs could obtain marijuana.

Two state senators, Republican Dave Burke of Marysville and Democrat Kenny Yuko of Richmond Heights, have said they will hold a series of town hall meetings throughout Ohio to gauge public opinion on the matter. Other legislators are looking at it, too.

If only to beat those with financial interest in a broadly written medicinal marijuana measure to the punch, lawmakers should be considering a bill on the matter – including tight restrictions on availability of the drug.