Medical marijuana bill faces close vote today

COLUMBUS – If senators approve a plan to legalize medical marijuana Wednesday, it will be by a razor-thin margin.

Following late-night caucus meetings, about a dozen Republicans and six Democrats plan to vote “yes” on a plan to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio while prohibiting growing marijuana at home and smoking it. That’s more than the 17 votes needed to pass the bill, but it would be close and legislators could change their minds at the last minute.

The plan barely passed committee Wednesday morning, 7-5. Republican senators Kris Jordan, Larry Obhof, Tom Patton, Bob Peterson and Democrat Sen. Michael Skindell opposed the bill.

“All I can do is my best to keep drugs out of the Ohio constitution,” Sen. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, told The Enquirer Wednesday morning. He is one of two senators who held town halls across Ohio to listen to residents’ concerns about medical marijuana.

If approved and signed by Gov. John Kasich, Ohio would become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana.

House lawmakers passed the plan by a comparatively wide margin, 71-26, on May 10. Some Democrats, including Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Roselawn, voted against the plan because it would allow employers to fire employees who test positive for medical marijuana and prohibit them from drawing unemployment benefits.

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