An Ohio Supreme Court judge verbally backed the legalization of marijuana earlier this week.
During a speech, Justice William O’Neill expressed full support for the legalization of marijuana as well as the release of all non-violent marijuana offenders from prison. He likewise discussed potentially stepping down from his position and making a run at the governor’s seat in 2018, although he may not make his decision until the end of the year.
O’Neill stated, “The time has come for new thinking. We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass.” By decriminalizing marijuana and releasing previous offenders from prison, the state could possibly generate up to $350 million in saved revenue as well as millions of dollars in sales taxes. O’Neill would like to see these profits used in reopening state hospitals and developing new programs for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. He believes the time has come to “treat addiction like the disease it is in the name of compassion.”
He looks to Colorado as an example of the positive effects that could come from decriminalizing marijuana. He also asserts that if Democrats want take back the Ohio branches of government in 2018, they are going to need some fresh ideas.
O’Neill is likely to face some opposition moving forward, as he is currently the only Democrat holding a statewide position in Ohio. If he moves forward in the governor’s race, he will be facing incumbent Republican John Kasich, who has gained favorability among his constituents since his brief run in the presidential primary elections last year. Kasich has, for the most part, remained fairly hands-off in dealing with the national trends around marijuana. However, he recently stated that he doesn’t believe the state’s new medical marijuana program will help alleviate the opioid crisis.
The program he referred to was a bill that passed last June and became effective in September. It allows Ohio patients with certain qualifying medical conditions to purchase medical marijuana as a treatment – as a long as a certified physician recommends it. Many physicians have stated that they are not interested in obtaining the necessary license to prescribe medical marijuana for a number of reasons, mostly around disbelief in the effectiveness of the treatment. On the contrary, a recent study reported that hospitalizations for overdoses dropped 13 percent on average in states that legalized marijuana use.
The state already laid down some rules on how much marijuana patients can possess at one time. In February, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced that approved patients may purchase up to six ounces with THC under 23 percent in a 90-day period.
The bill requires Ohio lawmakers to create a full program for medical marijuana usage by Sept. 8 of this year. This includes outlining how patients can sign up for the program, how they are allowed to consume marijuana and how physicians will be certified to distribute.
additional photo credit: Ron Gilbert