By Nicole Hennessy
As the Nov. 3 General Election nears, the possibility of Ohio being one of the few states in the nation to legalize marijuana becomes more of a reality.
Relentless campaigning on both sides of Issue 3 simultaneously paint the proposition as a menacing downfall and a forward-thinking moneymaking initiative.
Though, most of the moneymaking would be done by a handful of investors who, per the proposed initiative, would own the only 10 farms permitted to cultivate marijuana commercially.
Illustrating this, the ballot states that Issue 3 “Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.”
Curtis Tuggle, president of the Alcohol and Drug addiction Services Board of Lorain County sat down to discuss his organization’s perspective on potential legalization.
He described his organization as a “public board comprised of members of our community with responsibility for developing, monitoring, evaluating, and allocating resources and programs for the effective prevention and treatment of addiction for the communities of Lorain County.”
The following is a portion of an interview with lengthy, detailed responses.
Q: There are people who consider marijuana to be safe ( some consider it to be safer than alcohol) what do you say to those people? Or to people who believe that a lot of the current danger is in marijuana users and underage users being forced to interact with drug dealers, which can lead to an exposure to substances they wouldn’t normally be involved with?
A: As noted previously, the marijuana of today is far more potent, powerful and dangerous. In Colorado and other states where legalization has occurred, marijuana is being use in candy, baked goods and liquid drinks, which are foods commonly ingested by children. Imagine how difficult it would be to make sure children are not consuming marijuana laced food products if they were legal and widely available in our communities? Moreover, anyone who states marijuana is safe, or safer than alcohol, should be asked to identify the medical studies that allegedly support those statements. No credible studies based upon well-settled and accepted scientific methods exist. On the other hand, there are numerous studies as previously mentioned that were conducted by reputable research institutions and universities that illustrate the harmful effects of marijuana use. In addition, one need only speak with an individual and family who have experience drug addiction and receive their views on whether marijuana or any other illegal drugs are safe. The compelling stories of these people should be a part of the discussion and should be taken into account. As to your final question, I think the nature of the question suggestions a connection between marijuana use and other illegal drug use. Those currently deal in illegal drugs will not discontinue selling marijuana if recreational use is permitted. Further, because marijuana impairs judgment and decision-making, its use enhances the risk of experimentation with other more dangerous substances.
Q: In your opinion, what is the worst case scenario if Issue 3 passes, as well as the best case scenario?
A: Considering what we have already learned from Colorado and what we know through research studies, as well as our own common sense and experience, I think it is reasonable – in fact prudent – to assume that any community that legalizes marijuana for recreational use will experience pervasive decline as a direct result of the substantial harm caused to children, adolescents and adults through increased marijuana use. Contrary to the false promises of those who support the legalization of marijuana, those who currently deal in drugs will not stop selling them to children and, instead, extremely potent and harmful marijuana will become readily accessible to young people and, as a result of such legalization, young people’s perception of marijuana being harmful will be diminished if not completely eliminated. Clearly the use of marijuana and likely other harder and more serious illegal drugs, both legal and illegal, will likely increase dramatically. In any such environment, individual and community advancement and economic prosperity will be undermined and become extremely difficult if not impossible. Allowing something to occur that would present a real and imminent threat to children and their futures is the absolutely worst of worst case scenarios.
Q: How do you think illegal and legal substances are viewed/are used in society? Is it really that big of a difference? Or will we inevitably see the same types of addictions and effects regardless of a legal or illegal status?
A: There is a wealth of information available from
research studies and surveys conducted throughout the country that demonstrates societal views on drug use have a profound impact on children and their behavior. These studies confirmation what all of us witness with our own eyes everyday – children emulate the behavior of adults. This universal truth is evidenced by children learning to walk, talk, color, build, sing, dance, play sports, drive and perform many other activities. Tragically, sometimes this includes using drugs. When society clearly and unequivocally delivers a message that drugs are harmful and dangerous, which is the message delivered by making them illegal, the number of children who are likely to experience and fall victim to the devastating effects of addiction is lower. With all of this in mind, it is not difficult to conclude the
legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a terrible idea. Legalization and facilitating widespread use would send a powerful message – the wrong message – that using marijuana is safe and responsible. The facilitation and promotion of this flawed and erroneous perception of marijuana coupled with the massive expansion of accessibility to young people could dramatically transform our schools, neighborhoods and communities in a way no one would like to imagine.
Q: This may be a bit off topic, but many people believe that the private prison industry profits off of low-level drug users, creating a dysfunctional population of people who would otherwise be functioning members of society. How can we tackle this issue without legalization? Do you think legalization could improve the quality of some people’s lives?
A: Experience has taught us that every problem often has several possible solutions. Selecting the best solution requires careful thought and consideration of the solution’s impact not only on the particular problem in question but also its impact on other problems and related matters. It reminds me of the expression “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” It is overly simplistic and, dare I say, lazy, to suggest that the problem of incarceration for drug offenses should be solved by legalizing drugs. Applying that faulty logic, one would have a difficult time arguing that cocaine and heroin should not also be decriminalized. Given the tragedy that we have experienced with the herion epidemic, I do not believe anyone would be so bold and irrational. Yes, we should look at the incarceration issue and develop effective policies to address those problems. In Lorain County, we have been progressive in that
regard by developing drug courts that are knowledgeable about addiction and use
resources available to help individuals deal with their addiction and achieve and sustain recovery. Additional work in this area can and should be done throughout the country. However, each acceptable and appropriate solution will help address the problem at hand without causing additional problems of a more serious nature. Marijuana legalization would likely be only a short-term cure to the incarceration problem, at best, and inadvertently and unintentionally lead to the destruction of our community through a massive expansion of drug use by adults and young people. Our community is much
better than that.