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State legislators pass bill to legalize medical marijuana

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COLUMBUS — A medical marijuana legalization bill has been sent to Gov. John Kasich in an effort by state lawmakers to offset support for a proposed fall ballot measure.

The measure cleared the Ohio Senate by just three votes, and the House followed by OK'ing Senate changes 67-28.

The proposal, which Kasich has not committed to signing, would bar patients from smoking marijuana or growing it at home, but it would allow its use in vapor form for certain chronic health conditions.

State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said she voted for the bill after talking with doctors and constituents.

“I heard from a lot of my constituents who said they wanted medical marijuana but not recreational and that they wanted to see legislation and not a constitutional amendment,” she said. “And that’s exactly what this is. I’m happy with the decision I made.”

Manning said it was also important to her that families get the medical attention they need.

“If something like medical marijuana is going to help someone who’s suffering then we should be able to offer that,” she said.

Supporters, also from both parties, recalled emotional testimony from chronic pain sufferers and parents of sick children as influencing their decisions to support the legislation.

“There is no reason why we should make Ohioans suffer any longer,” said state Sen. Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat who worked with Republican Sen. David Burke, a pharmacist from Marysville, to clinch the bill’s Senate passage.

Lawmakers fast-tracked the measure as a way to head off a medical marijuana issue headed toward fall ballots.

But the Ohioans for Medical Marijuana campaign painted lawmakers’ approval as only bolstering its issue’s chances in the fall.

“Their support for medical marijuana speaks volumes for eliminating any remaining biases against allowing doctors to recommend this life-enhancing treatment to patients in need,” spokesman Aaron Marshall said in a statement.

Chronicle-Telegram reporter Katie Nix contributed to this story.

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