ORG Press Release - Chipping Away

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ohio Rights Group 

Contacts:       

     ORG General Number
     (614) 300-0529

     Savannah Smith, ORG President
     (404) 936-8301

E-mail:  media@ohiorights.org

Date:  October 10, 2016

SUBJECT:  LAWMAKERS AND PUBLIC OFFICIALS CHIP AWAY AT OHIO'S NEW MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW
Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee unbalanced and biased 

(Columbus, OH): (Columbus, OH): Despite going into effect on September 8, 2016, just one month ago, Ohio lawmakers and public officials are chipping away at House Bill 523, Ohio's new medical marijuana law. While the Ohio Rights Group lauds this high watermark in Ohio marijuana policy, the measure is under attack by bills that narrow its provisions, interpretations that run counter to its intent and an advisory committee with questionable qualifications.

The new Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee serves as a case in point. The 14-member committee was established in Sec. 3796.021 of the Ohio Revised Code. The appointed members can be seen in the About section of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s website. Two individuals stand out as woefully unqualified – “Marcie Seidel, representing persons involved in mental health treatment” and “Tony E. Coder, Jr., representing persons involved in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction” – for the following reasons:

  • Both Ms. Seidel and Mr. Coder are employed by the Drug Free Action Alliance (DFAA) located on Huntley Road in Columbus. Together, this one organization comprises 14% of the advisory committee.
  • The DFAA has decidedly prohibitionist approach toward medical marijuana. Under the header for their “Marijuana as Medicine” position paper, they unequivocally state, “Legalizing marijuana for medical use should not be decided by legislative or voter initiative,” yet they have been appointed to positions to enact legislation.
  • Neither Ms. Seidel nor Mr. Coder have background in the subject matter they are purported to represent in accordance with the law. Ms. Seidel is charged with representing “mental health treatment,” but her background as listed on the DFAA webpage shows that most of her work life has been spent in the governor’s office. Similarly, Mr. Coder’s career seems centered on government bureaucracy, not drug and alcohol addiction treatment for which he was appointed. Surely there must be degreed clinical psychologists who could have fulfilled these roles.
  • Both Ms. Seidel and Mr. Coder are affiliated with the national prohibitionist organization, “Smart Approaches toward Marijuana” (aka “SAM”), for which Mr. Coder serves as Ohio Chairman. SAM was basically “created to halt any and all legalization efforts.” Seidel’s and Coder’s combined presence on the new advisory committee, in the clear absence of appointee from any pro-medical cannabis advocacy group, unfairly tips the balance of the committee, showing their appointments to be a political maneuver to chip away at HB 523, not a functional choice based on proven expertise.
  • According to the 2002 article “The Governor’s Sub-rosa Plot to Subvert an Election in Ohio " by Daniel Forbes, Ms. Seidel as the Chief of Staff to former Ohio First Lady Hope Taft helped to organize a campaign that used public funds to defeat the “Ohio Drug Treatment in Lieu of Incarceration Amendment” which appeared on the ballot in November that year. As Forbes noted in the article, “Ohio Governor Bob Taft and the highest reaches of his administration … embarked on a months-long, concerted effort to subvert the state’s electoral process.”

In addition to the unbalanced and biased appointments to the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, freshman Republican Representative Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) is chipping away at Ohio’s new medical marijuana program with his recently introduced HB 597. This bill would restrict the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to negotiating reciprocity agreements with just the three medical marijuana states that forbid marijuana smoking and home growing: Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania. Reciprocity enables patient medical marijuana cards from one state to be recognized in another. This unnecessary legislation, a reelection ploy by a freshman representative, would place restrictions on a new program whose rules don’t even yet exist!.

The State Medical Board of Ohio also chipped away at the new Medical Marijuana Control Program by refusing to permit physicians to issue written recommendations to patients before the board’s rules regarding these recommendations are in place. This, despite clear wording in HB 523 that permits physicians to do so. The board’s intransigence could spell jail time for the unfortunate patient who is arrested, but unable to assert HB 523’s Affirmative Defense to those charges, which is dependent on a physician recommendation.

Finally, a number of cities and towns like Lancaster, Lakewood, Beavercreek, Lima, Troy and Piqua are placing moratoriums on medical marijuana establishments such as grow sites, processors and dispensaries, thwarting the rollout of industry that could be worth as much as $400 million annually before even one regulation has been codified.

“Even though the Ohio General Assembly took a great deal of care in passing Ohio's new medical marijuana law, those opposed to its enactment seem to have been dealt the upper hand in its rollout,” said ORG president Savannah Smith. "Patients continue to suffer and Ohio is in the grips of a deadly heroin epidemic, while policy makers chip away at the program in ways that were not intended by the legislation.” She went on to note that signatures for the ballot measures like Ohioans for Medical Marijuana (OMM left the state shortly after passage of HB 523) or the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment are still good, enabling either measure to be quickly reactivated. In addition, ballot initiatives legalizing the adult use of marijuana in California, Nevada and other states are polling very well and are expected to pass in November.

Responsible regulation of medical marijuana is coming to Ohio, one way or the other, sooner not later.

The Ohio Rights Group is a non-partisan 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for the rights of Ohioans to make medical, therapeutic and industrial use of the Cannabis plant and supports the growing number of individuals, organizations and industries facilitating those uses.

For more background information on HB 523, please visit the ORG’s website at ohiorightsgroup.org and click on the links for Legislation and Ballot Issues.

This press release can be viewed in PDF format here.

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