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Published: Thursday, 7/10/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

FitzGerald’s stand on marijuana delayed

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Ed FitzGerald declined to give his stance on medical marijuana Wednesday. Ed FitzGerald declined to give his stance on medical marijuana Wednesday.
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COLUMBUS — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald will someday take a position on the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes in Ohio. But that day wasn’t Wednesday.

“To me, it’s a public health issue if you’re talking about using it in a medical context,” the Cuyahoga County executive said. “It’s something that needs to be treated seriously as a medical issue. But what I don’t like is people saying let’s just do it because it will raise revenue in the state. It’s not that simple.”

The urgency for a position recently faded when backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp missed the deadline to file petitions for the Nov. 4 ballot on which Mr. FitzGerald and Republican Gov. John Kasich will appear.

But he said he believes he has an obligation to take a position at some point. Whatever position he takes may be colored by his experience as a former FBI agent and prosecutor.

“I certainly saw people in the justice system that I thought were being prosecuted for non-violent drug offenses that I didn’t think belonged in the justice system,” he said. “When I was prosecutor, I followed the law and prosecuted them, but I didn’t necessarily think that was a great use of state resources or prison space.

“On the other hand, we have a situation going on in Ohio right now when it comes to heroin usage, which is at epidemic proportions, and I think heroin dealers should go to prison and face potentially very harsh consequences,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s happening.”

Mr. Kasich opposes the concept. The Libertarian Party of Ohio, which failed to get a candidate on the gubernatorial ballot, favors passage of a medical marijuana ballot issue.

The state of Washington this week officially joined Colorado in the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. A number of states, including Michigan, have legalized marijuana strictly for medical purposes.

One group pushing a proposal in Ohio said last week it had gathered roughly 100,000 signatures of registered voters, but that’s a far cry from the roughly 385,000 valid signatures it would need to put the question on the ballot.

A legalization bill in the General Assembly has also gone nowhere. A Quinnipiac Poll in February showed 87 percent of Ohio voters support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Support drops to 51 percent when it comes to possessing a small amount for recreational use.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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