Marijuana legalization will harm children, DeWine says

ResponsibleOhio says ballot issue would crush black market dealers.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said his three-day trip to Colorado to learn about marijuana legalization there has him worried about what legalization could mean for Ohio and its children.

DeWine, who was in Dayton on Tuesday, said he visited with law enforcement, doctors and citizens in Colorado.

“People I talked to said, ‘Don’t make the same mistake that we made in Colorado,’ ” said DeWine, who is opposed to Issue 3, a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would legalize marijuana for people 21 and older.

DeWine spoke while visiting Dayton Children’s Hospital, which opposes Issue 3.

“Based on all the research available, we believe making marijuana readily available in our state will put children’s lives at unnecessary risk,” said Debbie Feldman, the hospital’s president and CEO.

ResponsibleOhio, the group behind Issue 3, said it cares about children’s safety.

“We want to protect our kids and make sure marijuana stays out of their hands too,” said ResponsibleOhio Spokesperson Faith Oltman in a statement.

Feldman, DeWine and Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said one of their main concerns about legalization is children’s accessibility to edible products containing marijuana.

“What kid is not going to eat Swedish Fish? What kid is not going to eat gummy bears?” Plummer said, pointing to a poster of marijuana edibles and seemingly identical candies placed side-by-side.

DeWine said passing Issue 3 will send a message to children that marijuana is “OK.”

Dr. Gogi Kumar, medical director of Dayton Children’s Hospital Neurology Department, said marijuana can have lingering effects on young people.

“The brain is still forming connections … in a child or a teenager’s brain, so it definitely alters those connections. It also increases the risk of anxiety and depression and psychosis,” Kumar said.

Plummer said half of the county’s inmate population has a drug charge or has had one.

"We interview people every day and they tell us, 'We started with marijuana.' They don't just start with heroin. It's a gateway drug," Plummer said.

ResponsibleOhio said drug dealers, not marijuana, are to blame.

"Right now, drug dealers are selling to kids … And these dangerous dealers are the real gateway because they have access to heroin and other hard drugs. Issue 3 will smother the black market and stop drugs dealers who care more about cash than conscience," Oltman said.

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