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State Representative, Billionaire Team up to Put Medical Marijuana on 2012 Ballot

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After the first time he was on CNN talking about medical marijuana, state Rep. Kenny Yuko got a call from an 80-year-old Lake County man who wanted help so he could stop buying the drug illegally for an illness.

"He said one Saturday night he was in so much pain he actually sent his very elderly wife into downtown Cleveland looking for a drug dealer," Yuko says. "He said she came back three hours later crying because she couldn't find a drug dealer, and he was crying because he put his wife in harm's way."

Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, introduced a bill April 26 in the Ohio General Assembly to legalize medical marijuana.

"(State Rep.) Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) is a 'joint' sponsor with me. That's a pun," Yuko jokes.

But Yuko is serious about House Bill 214, which would legalize the use, growth and dispensing of medical marijuana for people suffering from conditions including cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease.

The bill has even garnered the support of a Republican lawmaker.

Unlikely proponents

State Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy Township, is one of five co-sponsors of Yuko's medical marijuana bill.

"I'm probably one of the more conservative members of the Ohio House of Representatives," Young says. "I'm certainly not for the (total) legalization of marijuana. But at the same time, when credible doctors say it can be helpful in certain situations and patients testify wholeheartedly that it is extremely helpful, I don't see a good reason to say no to medical marijuana."

Young says he began giving the idea of medical marijuana more thought after a sick friend from church told him he had been using medical marijuana.

"He told me in no uncertain terms that he couldn't live without it," Young adds. "It does seem unreasonable to me that we have stronger drugs available through prescription than marijuana. I think it's simply because of the strong cultural bias against marijuana."

Yuko has multiple sclerosis, but says he would probably not smoke marijuana for it even it is legalized.

Still, this would not be the first time Yuko has tried to get a medical marijuana law passed in the state.

And Yuko fully expects the proposed legislation to fail again with a Republican-dominated legislature and Republican governor.

But Yuko now has the backing of billionaire Peter B. Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Corp. in Mayfield Village, who has spent up to $60 million supporting medical marijuana legalization.

Lewis and Yuko hope to put the medical marijuana issue on the ballot in 2012. Lewis declined comment through a spokesman.

"The ballot initiative will cost $2 million, and I certainly don't have that kind of money," Yuko says.

"But Peter B. Lewis will give us the necessary money to get the message out there. This would give people who are suffering some kind of relief without fear of prosecution or arrest. These folks live in constant fear that if they get caught, they're going to go to jail.

"Surveys show that 73 percent of registered voters approve of medical marijuana in Ohio. We just repealed the estate tax. Why don't we repeal the marijuana laws and let these people out of prison?"

Leon Hodkey, a 70-year-old retired Eastlake detective, agrees.

"When I was very young, I thought marijuana was evil and it led to heroin and all that," says Hodkey, who now lives in Cantonment, Fla.

"As I got older, I figured out that's not always the case. I found that when you're my age, you have friends and associates who are dying of cancer and other things with a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. If the doctor felt marijuana would alleviate it, they should be able to take it. Sure, some people would take advantage of (legalization), but it's worth it to help someone."

'The Cheech and Chong mentality'

Kim, a 31-year-old registered nurse from Eastlake, suffers from fibromyalgia and says she smokes pot on the recommendation of her rheumatoid neurologist, endocrinolgist and pain management doctors.

She can't take prescription drugs for the illness because of a family history of opiate abuse.

"If I didn't smoke marijuana, I'd be so overcome with continuous, shocking pain in my neck, shoulder, chest, hips and knees that I wouldn't be able to function as a mom," says Kim, who asked that her last name not be published because buying the drug is illegal. "I don't like that it makes me a criminal, but I couldn't function without it."

Kim says she smokes three times a day, usually buying one-half ounce a week.

"Unfortunately, it's not something I can always get," she says. "I can't always depend on a friend of a friend. The last time I saw my rheumatologist, he jokingly said, 'So, has your husband found a job in Oregon or California yet?' "

But Officer George "Pat" Willis of the Lake County Narcotics Agency says legalization would do more harm than good.

"From the standpoint of law enforcement, I personally think it's a bad idea," Willis says.

"People like to talk about how there are 16 states where marijuana is a medicine. Nobody mentions that there used to be 26 states that had marijuana as a medicine, and 10 of them bowed out. California wanted to legalize marijuana, period, and it didn't pass. Not enough people were in favor of it."

The United States uses eight criteria to measure drugs to determine whether they can become a medicine.

The criteria include a known and reproducible drug chemistry, adequate safety studies, acceptance by qualified experts and widely available scientific evidence.

"As you go down through these criteria, marijuana cannot even meet one of the eight criteria," says the narcotics officer.

"What the proponents to legalize medical marijuana have done is taken it out of the hands of the (Food and Drug Administration) and gone to the voters to vote it as a medicine to bypass the system.

"Do we want to throw the FDA criteria down the tubes? Then anything – LSD, whatever – could become a medicine. This is definitely going to be a huge issue. What has to be done is look at the standard we have in place to make sure medicines are safe. If we take that standard away, I think we're in a real world of hurt."

Yuko insists legalizing medical marijuana would not create a drug society.

"I don't want to see dispensaries here like they have in California, I really don't," he says. "We want to either set up locations to buy it or do it through the mail in controlled amounts. We can regulate it. We can watch who's growing it, how they grow it and why they grow it.

"It can be controlled. We need to get rid of the Cheech and Chong mentality and get rid of seeing George Carlin in our mind every time someone mentions the word cannabis."

What readers are saying

We asked our readers via Twitter and Facebook to share their thoughts about a new effort under way in Ohio to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes. Here are the responses:


@Capt_H_Morgan big D Russell

re: medicinal marijuana I would try it if it were legal and no reprobation. Living 10 years with daily pain-there's a cost. I'm curious but not to the point of breaking law. I HAVE COMMON SENSE/won't support illegal drug use

From Facebook:

Tiffany Rennea Washington: I think it should be. I have Multiple Sclerosis and it could help with my symptoms. And there are other people in Ohio that have problems with there health and it could help them. No one has died from getting high.

Tom Shimko: Should of happen a long time ago.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: news-herald.com
Author: Tracey Read
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The News-Herald
Website: State representative, billionaire team up to put medical marijuana on 2012 ballot


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Maybe the Officer, making his point as to keeping it illegal, Should go to the US Health and Human Services website, look up Cancer.gov , and read all the information before making such a statement.
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