VOICES: Issue 2 puts profits over people

Earlier this month, I voted yes on Senate Resolution 216 which expresses the Ohio Senate’s opposition to Issue 2.

Issue 2 would radically expand Ohio’s marijuana program by allowing the substance to be used and sold recreationally for adult use.

The stark ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana are evident from other states and in numerous studies. Issue 2 will allow the marijuana industry to capitalize on addiction and turn it into profit.

My vote on S.R. 216 reflects my concern for Issue 2′s passage for the following reasons:

  • This proposal adds fuel to the fire of our state’s current addiction crisis.
  • Ohio has one of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the nation. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, and 33,000 Ohioans have died of drug overdoses since 2011.
  • The public health department serving Dayton and Montgomery counties reports that of 316 accidental drug overdose deaths in 2022, 123 had traces of marijuana in the individual’s body at the time of hospital admission or after death.
  • Issue 2 will help grow the unregulated, black market marijuana industry.
  • Under passage of Issue 2, individuals can choose to home grow marijuana. With home grow, individuals are able to grow uncontrolled marijuana, which could pose health risks due to accidental contaminants or pesticides.
  • If recreational marijuana is legalized, then we must prohibit the practice of home grow to mitigate the risk of black market, laced marijuana on our streets.
  • Legalized recreational marijuana will increase crime, car accidents, and emergency room visits.

Being stoned behind the wheel has caused car accidents to rise over the past decade. Data gathered from the U.S. Department of Transportation, shows the percentage of fatally injured drivers that were tested and cannabinoid positive doubled from 8% in 2007 to 16% in 2016. In a study conducted by AAA, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes and were THC-positive in the state of Washington doubled from 2008-2017.

Ohio’s medical marijuana program would be decimated with the passage of Issue 2.

Seven years ago during the 131st General Assembly, I sponsored House Bill 523 which authorized the use of medical marijuana in the state.

Participants in Ohio’s medical marijuana program can only purchase marijuana from a licensed, regulated dispensary. The participant must also be evaluated by a physician that gives a recommendation for marijuana use for only certain medical conditions. This guarantees that patients receive a safe and regulated product.

I have introduced Senate Bill 9 this General Assembly to improve Ohio’s medical marijuana law in a manner that is business friendly and patient focused. SB 9 aims to lower prices and expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

Before taking steps to legalize recreational marijuana, we need to take steps to fully understand the impacts of marijuana.

I believe that the federal government must reclassify the drug from its current classification as a Schedule I drug. Researchers need access to research the drug, and under its current classification, regulatory barriers prevent the vast majority of researchers from studying the drug’s health effects.

We can’t trust the marijuana industry. The ones that wrote Issue 2, are the ones that will profit off of its passage, and the ones that are aiming to harm Ohio’s children. More time and research is needed. A better plan is needed. I agree with the Ohio Senate on S.R. 216 to encourage Ohioans to vote NO on Issue 2 on November 7th.

Stephen A. Huffman is a Republican member of the Ohio Senate, representing the 5th district since 2019.

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