BEAVERCREEK — Citizens heard from various perspectives on the legalization of marijuana at a community forum in Beavercreek Thursday night. Forum panelists addressed the issue in light of Ohio Issue 3, a marijuana legalization initiative that is on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election.
Panelists included Ohio Patient Network President Robert Ryan, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer, Cedarville University nursing professor Janet Neal, Cedarville University economics professor Bert Wheeler and Cedarville University pharmacy practice professor Mark Pinkerton.
Neal noted that levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, (which controls pot’s potency and intensity), have increased since the 1960s and 70s: “Back in the day when Baby Boomers were interested in marijuana, the THC level was 1 percent,” she said. “Now the level is 14 percent, upwards to nearly 25 percent. The goal [of marijuana producers] is to improve the agricultural methods so that those numbers can climb higher and higher.”
Neal also mentioned negative effects of marijuana, including the exacerbation of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and said that “people that are smoking marijuana can expect to be at least moderately depressed and anxious from time to time just because marijuana is also a depressant.”
Pinkerton cited the adverse effects of marijuana, including hypertension, dizziness, decreases in reaction time, diminished cognitive ability, impaired memory, increased anxiety, among others.
Ryan, a proponent of the legalization amendment, said, “Primarily almost 95 percent of our studies are all geared towards finding some sort of negative effect. It’s very, very hard for a clinician to study anything that says this is a positive effect.”
Ryan also cited a 2014 study that found that states that had legalized medical marijuana had a 25 percent lower opioid drug overdose death rate than states where medical marijuana was illegal.
“Marijuana is a substitute for some of these heavy-duty narcotics that people use,” he said. “I used to be on the Ohio Patient Network hotline for two years and I heard from people all over the state of Ohio where these deep, deep pain patients, they would take massive amounts of opiate drugs, that would literally kill me and you probably. They told me over and over again that the more marijuana they had, the less of the heavy-duty narcotics they need and the more functional they were with their families. Frankly maybe marijuana is a gateway. It’s a gateway off these heavy-duty narcotics.”
Fischer said if Issue 3 passes, he would see the need “probably … for additional officers” as well as additional training for law enforcement. DeWine said that legalization would create a “logistical nightmare” for law enforcement.
After warning of dangers of marijuana to young adults, DeWine called the initiative an “absolutely crazy” way to legalize marijuana, pointing to what has been described as the “monopoly” structure of the legalization amendment proposed by ResponsibleOhio.
Ballot language for the proposed legalization amendment states that exclusive rights to marijuana growth, cultivation and extraction would be endowed to landowners in 10 locations throughout the state. Recreational sale of marijuana would then be permitted at “approximately 1,100 locations statewide.”
Wheeler concurred with DeWine by calling the proposal an “economic abomination.” While he said a report by ResponsibleOhio overestimates the potential economic impact of the amendment, he also said he believed that “on net Issue 3 will have a positive impact on the economy.”
DeWine also addressed the situation brought about if Issues 2 and 3 were to pass together. Issue 2, which was crafted in response to Issue 3, would prohibit any petitioner from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly. DeWine said that situation would have to be addressed by the Ohio Supreme Court.