Getting help for patients suffering and in pain is the primary goal of the Ohio Rights Organization’s effort to place a constitu-tional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would legalize the medical use of cannabis, better known as marijuana.
“We’re not passing legislation. We’re trying to pass a right,” said John Pardee, president of ORO at the organization’s rally Thursday at the Lemon Grove Restaurant in downtown Youngstown.
“The amendment would not only ensure that our loved ones will have the right to use cannabis to ease their suffering, it would give farmers the right to grow hemp as a profitable agriculture crop,” Pardee said.
Though members of the small group at the Lemon Grove meeting all seemed in favor of legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, not everyone agrees.
Dr. Steven Matson, president of the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said in an email that he sees daily examples in his practice that marijuana is a drug of abuse and dependence that has serious negative consequences for many users.
“I see previously healthy teens now relegated to illegal activities to fuel their drug abuse that started with marijuana,” he wrote in the email. “We know that teens that start smoking marijuana have a significantly increased risk of cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs use ... and a four to nine times increased risk of experiencing drug abuse and drug dependence later in life.”
Speaking for the amendment to legalize the medical use of marijuana was longtime proponent state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, who recently introduced House Bill 153, which allows people with chronic or debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, Crohn’s disease and sickle-cell anemia, to cultivate or otherwise obtain and use marijuana for treatment of their ailments.
“I’m moved by the fact that people are suffering. Marijuana use for medicinal purposes needs to be legalized and decriminalized,” Hagan said.
“It’s worth fighting this fight,” said Youngstown native Mimi Peleg, who works as a counselor in Israel for patients receiving medicinal marijuana.
Medicinal marijuana is legal in that country, but still is considered a “last resort” medication, Peleg said.
Patients in Israel are required to get counseling on, among other things, the safe use of marijuana and the consumption methods.
Providing counseling and re-counseling and locating distribution centers separate and away from marijuana growers are keys to the success of the program in Israel, she said.
“The drug war and violence has to stop. The only people who would not benefit from legalizing medicinal marijuana are large corporations and drug cartels,” Pardee said.