COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Montel Williams is putting the star power of his long television career behind an effort to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in Ohio, with an endorsement Wednesday and plans for more appearances in the state next week.
The former host of "The Montel Williams Show" came briefly to tears at a news conference in Columbus when speaking about the power of medical cannabis to help relieve people's suffering.
"Stop the stupid. Get the patients off the battlefield," Williams said.
He said Americans are grossly under- and ill-informed about marijuana's history, including the results of thousands of studies showing its positive medical effects.
He said he's worked to legalize medical marijuana so others can receive the benefits he's seen from cannabis in fighting his multiple sclerosis.
Williams was joined at Wednesday's event by other medical marijuana advocates, including an Ohio mother whose 11-year-old daughter suffers from a rare debilitating epileptic condition that the mother said could be helped by cannabis.
The sweeping nature of Ohio's proposed constitutional amendment — which would be the first in the country to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana in a single vote — required Williams to think hard about endorsing it. It marks his first time endorsing legalization for personal use, or what he called "adult usage."
Williams said he got behind the amendment because it gave clear details of how it will provide patients immediate access to marijuana as medicine.
"And that's all I'm about," he said. "This entire thing for me has nothing to do with recreational. I have never, ever, ever supported recreational drug use and I will never do so."
Jen Detwiler, a spokeswoman for the No Marijuana Monopoly, said voters know "the bad in Issue 3 far outweighs any good that might come from it."
"This is not a medical marijuana amendment," she said. "It is a marijuana monopoly amendment. And there is very, very little in the amendment that talks about medicinal marijuana. This amendment was created and funded by people who stand to financially benefit if it passes."
A spokesman for Williams said he does not intend to be an investor in any of the 10 authorized growing sites created by the proposal and has no current plans to be involved in the Ohio cannabis business.
Those growing sites are targeted in a separate ballot initiative, appearing as Issue 2, that would ban inserting economic monopolies in Ohio's constitution.