Gentile: Marijuana Bill ‘Rushed Through’

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As the Ohio Legislature takes a break for the summer, a local Senator said he hoped to see other issues besides a medical marijuana take focus during the session.

Lou Gentile_0Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, worked veteran’s rights and a bill about emergency response strategies when it come to fracking, but the marijuana bill was the main issue that came out of the legislation for the year. Gentile voted “no” on a medical marijuana bill that eventually passed and is awaiting Gov. John Kasich’s signature.

“It was a tough issue for me, because I do support medical marijuana and the use of that if it’s going to alleviate pain and suffering for people,” Gentile told WOUB in an interview on Thursday.

Despite his support for those who say they need the marijuana for illnesses such as seizure disorders and other chronic issues, he said he saw the bill as “flawed.”

“I thought there were provisions in the bill that were onerous, I thought that for workers, they would face the possibility of being fired even if they are recommended by a physician to be able to use medical marijuana under this bill,” Gentile said.

Gentile said in looking at the bill, which would allow marijuana regulated by the state to be dispensed through licensed doctors in vapor or edible form, he feared discrimination would be a problem, and the loss of not only employment but unemployment benefits would be a factor.

“I think it’s a little bit contradictory for the legislature to tell (marijuana users) ‘go ahead, it’s okay,’ however, you may face some serious consequences,” Gentile said.

He also said he did not see the legislature’s approval of the medical marijuana bill as encouragement for marijuana supporters, but as a way around petitions that were on their way to the November ballot.

The senator said he’s willing to work on a bill for medical marijuana that is “fair and even-handed to patients and workers,” but he is not on board with a recreational marijuana legalization effort. He also did not support Issue 3, the marijuana legalization ballot issue that failed in Ohio last year.

“I think you’ll find that Ohioans in large part are going to reject the concept of recreational but support the concept of medical marijuana,” he said.

While he sees risks in legalizing recreational marijuana, Gentile set his support behind decriminalization.

“I don’t think it’s right that someone who’s not trafficking (marijuana) should not be able to drive to go to their job,” Gentile said.