COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Republican majority in the Ohio House is taking a serious look at the issue of medical marijuana and discussing potential legislation, the House speaker said Wednesday, a day after voters rejected a broader pot legalization proposal.
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger told reporters that legalizing marijuana for medical use has support within his GOP caucus, and representatives were still getting organized as to how to proceed. He expected to have more details in the coming weeks about a series of resolutions and legislative steps on the topic.
"We want to take it seriously," said Rosenberger, a Clarksville Republican. "We want to do the right thing. But what we don't want to do is wave a wand and make it happen. I think it's appropriate that we do it in a measured way."
Rosenberger said proposals would include urging the federal government to list marijuana as a less dangerous drug, along with providing support for clinical trials and engaging the medical community in the Legislature's review. He said a pilot program to allow certain people to use the substance is also under discussion.
A ballot initiative to legalize pot for both medical and recreational use in Ohio failed in Tuesday's election, but polls suggest residents support medical marijuana.
An Oct. 8 Quinnipiac University poll found that 90 percent of Ohio voters back legalized medical marijuana and 9 percent do not. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Asked whether his Republican caucus supports the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons, Rosenberger said: "I don't think we'd be talking about this if there wasn't support from, not only our caucus, but support from the other side of the aisle."
Rosenberger said his discussions have been limited to medical marijuana, not recreational.
Rep. Kirk Schuring, a Canton Republican who Rosenberger has tapped to take the lead on the issue, said Ohio should look into new clinical studies or augment ones already in place that examine the efficacy of medicinal marijuana.
"Once that is determined then we can take the appropriate steps as a Legislature to determine whether or not it should be available to Ohio citizens," Schuring said.
House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, a Dayton Democrat, said most conversations in his caucus about medical marijuana have been related to the ballot initiative. He said he would welcome an opportunity to further discuss the issue in the Legislature, particularly after the ballot question offered a chance for people to tell their stories.
"When people can understand how this might help a person deal with pain or epilepsy or some other medical condition, I think it kind of really puts it in perspective for people," Strahorn said in a telephone interview.
Joe Andrews, a spokesman for Republican Gov. John Kasich, said the governor "feels the need to let medical professionals lead on this issue."
"He hopes that through additional clinical research we can determine if medicinal cannabis can produce treatments that help patients who cannot find relief with other medications," Andrews said in an email.