- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Patients and their families who are backing a medical marijuana ballot issue in Ohio said Wednesday that the proposed constitutional amendment offers a quicker and more effective way for them to get relief than legislation.

Two patients with debilitating illnesses and the mother of a boy with brain cancer appeared at a news conference to support the ballot proposal by Ohioans for Medical Marijuana to legalize medicinal cannabis. They said the measure should go forward even if state lawmakers pass a medical marijuana bill that’s been fast-tracked in the Ohio House.

The mother, Dana Kovach, of St. Clairsville, said that she had high hopes for the legislation but that final language didn’t provide needed protections to caregivers and too narrowly limited the types of cannabis that would be available.

“I put my heart and soul into that legislation. I prayed that the state of Ohio would not disappoint, that they would listen to the patients after all this time and after all of those task force hearings,” she said. “I thought for sure they had heard us.”

But the actual language of the bill, which is still a work in progress, was disappointing in areas, she said.

A broad coalition of law enforcement, health, business and labor groups contributed input on the legislation and now backs legislation as the best route to legalization. They have said it is much easier to fine-tune and to make tweaks in the future to state law, as opposed to the constitution.

For that reason, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Clarksville Republican, has said it would be “irresponsible” for those pursuing ballot campaigns to proceed rather than joining the legislative effort.

But Ohioans for Medical Marijuana has identified a dozen areas of concern with the bill, including that the Medical Marijuana Control Commission it would create is made up of unelected political appointees and has broad discretion over how marijuana is treated in the state. The group also says the bill lacks legal protections for doctors and patients, who could be exposed to the risk of arrest without an identity card system.

Dane Griffith, 25, of Columbus, has an autoimmune disease that causes him to “live in constant pain,” and he doesn’t want to wait the two years necessary for the legislation’s proposed system to be put in place.

“I take over-the-counter painkillers like Tic Tacs. I don’t have an option to enjoy my life,” Griffith said.

He said he became dependent on opioid painkillers and doesn’t want to take them anymore. He said he tried medical cannabis and it gave him relief he hasn’t had from the host of traditional medications he’s on.

“It just boggles my mind that this is an option that I can’t talk to my physician about,” he said.

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