YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Along with allowing more access to abortions, Ohioans in November will also be voting on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use. It’s already allowed in 18 states and the District of Columbia, but in Ohio, it’s only legal for medical purposes.
Joe Caruso is president and CEO of Compass Family and Community Services, which deals with drug and alcohol rehabilitation. How will he vote to legalize marijuana in Ohio for recreational use?
“I’d say no. I will vote no on it,” said Caruso.
Tom Haren is a 2004 graduate of Lowellville High School who’s now a Cleveland lawyer representing cannabis issues and is leading the effort to legalize recreational marijuana through the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
“It would generate over $400 million every year in new revenue to the state,” said Haren.
In 2015, Ohio voters soundly said no to recreational marijuana, but Haren says now it’s different.
“They see that Michigan has legalized for adult use. Illinois, Colorado and they go to these places and they come back and they see the sky hasn’t fallen,” said Haren.
What will be on the ballot is an initiated statute and not a constitutional change. Whatever happens with Issue One on August 8 has no effect on marijuana.
If passed, people over 21 could possess 2.5 ounces and grow 12 plants. There would be a 10% tax on all sales and a Division of Cannabis Control to oversee it.
Caruso sees it differently.
“We have people come in on a daily basis coming in for support and assistance because they have an addiction. We cannot really support an activity that is going to cause more addiction,” said Caruso.
Haren says the recreational marijuana program will be built off of Ohio’s medical program that’s already in place.
“So it’s going to remain highly regulated. It’s going to remain tested,” said Haren.
But Caruso doesn’t even support marijuana for medical reasons, saying it has no bonified medical purpose.
“In fact, it can actually harm people even more because it could induce some psychosis in individuals that have certain psychiatric conditions,” said Caruso.
The marijuana issue is not officially on the ballot yet. Enough signatures were turned in but the signatures and the ballot language still must be approved by Ohio’s Secretary of State.
A few footnotes. There’s no amnesty provision being proposed for people previously convicted of marijuana charges. There is no provision prohibiting marijuana from being smoked in public. Since it’s an initiated statute, the Ohio Legislature could overturn it or alter it.