Ohio Governor John Kasich made history on June 8 when he signed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the Buckeye State. By making Ohio the 26th state to legalize medicinal cannabis use, Kasich's signature has tipped the balance in favor of reform, putting states with medical marijuana programs in the majority for the first time in U.S. history.
Kasich's decision comes about a month after Louisiana fixed its medical marijuana laws so that its program would be functional. Technically, Louisiana was the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis, but their 1978 bill was written in a way that made it impossible to implement until legislators amended it in May of this year. With Louisiana becoming the 25th state to effectively legalize, the stage was set for Ohio to make history.
And the state couldn't have picked a more unlikely candidate for the job.
In 2012, Governor Kasich told the Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT that he opposed legalizing medical marijuana because a patient's medicine could fall into the hands of children.
"Some of those drugs are things we're really worried about getting into the hands of our kids," he said. "So the answer is no I am not in favor of it."
While running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Kasich wasn't shy about expressing his disapproval of marijuana. In April of last year, he told conservative talkshow host Hugh Hewitt, "if I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country."
Kasich softens his stance on medical marijuana
Then last fall, he spoke out against Ohio's Issue 3 - a 2015 ballot initiative that would have legalized medical and recreational marijuana statewide. However, a few months later, his stance on the issue changed slightly. While campaigning ahead of the New Hampshire primary, he told crowds that he would consider legalizing medical marijuana nationwide if he became president.
His change of position was reassuring enough to convince the Marijuana Policy Project, which suspended their 2016 medical marijuana ballot initiative when lawmakers sent the legalization bill to Kasich's desk last month.
Under the bill's regulations, patients with cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, Parkinson's and other approved conditions would be allowed to buy cannabis products from state-regulated dispensaries. They will not be allowed to grow their medicine at home, and they won't be able to smoke it. Vaping is the only legal way to inhale.
Over To You, Federal Government
Activists celebrating the event are also calling on the federal government to follow Kasich's example and reform America's outdated cannabis laws. In a written statement for Civilized, Paul Armentano - Deputy Director of NORML - told us,
"With 26 states and Washington DC having enacted statutory language permitting the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana, it is untenable for the federal government to continue to categorize cannabis as a schedule I prohibited substance 'with no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.' This 'flat-Earth' position defies political, scientific, and public consensus and ought to be repudiated post haste."
States With Medical Marijuana
For more details on the new regulations, check out Armentano's overview on NORML's website.
banner image: Flickr / Gage Skidmore