Columnist: Think carefully about marijuana legalization

By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Senior

Citizens in the Buckeye State are less than a month away from voting on a matter that makes some cringe and some rejoice. If Issue 3 passes Nov. 3, Ohio will become the fifth state to allow recreational marijuana use, which is currently decriminalized. Possessing 200 grams or less and selling anything less than 20 grams is a misdemeanor. Going beyond these limits however, is considered a felony and jail time is more than likely.  Thanks to the advocacy group Responsible Ohio, this could all change.

What Issue 3 means if it passes:

If a person at least 21-years-old has a valid state license, they can use, possess, grow, cultivate and share up to eight ounces of homegrown marijuana and four flowering marijuana plants.

If a person is at least 21-years-old but using marijuana recreationally, they can purchase, possess, transport, use and share up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

Anyone with a certification for a debilitating medical condition can use medicinal marijuana.

Only licensed Marijuana Product Manufacturing, or MPM, facilities would be able to manufacture, process and package marijuana-infused products.

The proposed amendment would be added to Section 12 to Article XV of the Ohio Constitution

Some of the gritty details:

There are eight investors who will control 10 indoor production facilities in Butler, Clermont, Franklin, Hamilton, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Delaware, Stark and Summit counties. The investors include so-called “state-celebrities,” singer Nick Lachey, former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Frostee Rucker, anesthesiologist Dr. Suresh Gupta, WEBN 102.7 FM radio host Frank Wood, philanthropist Barbara Gould, University of Cincinnati basketball legend Oscar Robertson, former general counsel of The Kroger Co., Paul Heldman and Woody Taft, a descendant of President William Howard Taft.

The amendment would allow a maximum 1,159 retail stores, which can only sell from the regulated facilities and can’t be located within 1,000 feet of any house of worship, public library, public or chartered elementary or secondary school, state-licensed day-care center or public playground.  Medicinal marijuana would only be sold by licensed nonprofit dispensaries to individuals with a note from their doctor. Production plants would be taxed 15 percent of their revenue, and retail stores would be taxed five percent of their revenue. Fifty-five percent of tax revenue would go toward the Municipal and Township Government Stabilization Fund, 30 percent would go to the Strong County Fund and 15 percent would go to the Marijuana Control Commission Fund.

Is it the right move?      

Based on the evidence provided to us by scientists and doctors, we all know marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Office on National Drug Control Policy have also admitted that driving while under the influence of marijuana is a lot safer than driving drunk, too. But is that enough to convince Ohioans?

The biggest beef people have with Issue 3 is the fact that it will create a monopoly. While the campaign advertises this amendment will take money away from the drug dealers, still only a few will be getting rich off of people’s drug use. Advocates who want to end the marijuana prohibition but want a free market of the industry, are saying to be patient and join the “Legalize Ohio 2016” campaign. I completely agree that creating a monopoly is wrong. We live in a nation where we adhere to the idea that we all have the opportunity to prosper and make a living however we wish, as long it complies with the law.

I am very indifferent about this issue, and I need to reflect on all the pros and cons before casting my vote. The most convincing reason I see for the immediacy of this legislation is the heroin and opioid epidemic in my home state. According to the Columbus Dispatch, there were 6,462 overdoses from 2008-2013. Close to 15,000 people have died since the turn of the century. You can’t read or watch the local news without hearing about some heroin related arrest, overdose or tragic accident.

Ohio is facing a give-and-take situation. Maybe if we allow a so-called “safe-drug,” harder drug consumption will go down—but this goes against the gateway theory, which I believe to be true. At some point, a tolerance is going to build up, and that high you get from that joint or bowl won’t be the same. And you’re going to want to move on to something else.

It’s without a doubt the war on drugs is coming to an end. Since President Richard Nixon started the war in 1971, more than $1 trillion in tax payer money has been spent. The feds spent $15 million and local/state governments spent $25 billion in 2010 alone. It’s time not just for Ohioans, but for the entire United States, to decide whether or not we want marijuana to be a part of our society.

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