Time to legalize medical marijuana

With polls showing strong support in Ohio for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, restrictions on medicinal use of the drug will inevitably be lifted. But will it happen by a ballot-driven constitutional amendment, or by the more deliberative path of the General Assembly?

A bill introduced last month by Rep. Stephen Huffman (R., Tipp City), an emergency room physician, has been partially revised and will be voted on Tuesday. It would provide a cautious step forward. It would let doctors recommend marijuana to their patients, without permitting them to home grow it.

The bill would permit only state-licensed cultivators to produce marijuana, and it would establish a nine-member Medical Marijuana Control Commission to make recommendations to the Department of Commerce on regulation of use.

House Bill 523 isn’t perfect. It may, for example, overly restrict and regulate doctors. But, overall, it’s a better framework than those proposed by groups seeking to install medical marijuana in the Ohio constitution.

Lawmakers know they must act. Even those who are reluctant to legalize medical marijuana recognize that they can either pass legislation to control the terms of legalization, or relinquish that control to a citizens group pushing a constitutional amendment.

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