Friday, Jan 19, 2018
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Opinion

COMMENTARY

No: It’s bad for the state and bad for business

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Gramza

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Next month, Ohioans will vote on Issue 3, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use — and would create a marijuana cartel. The Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce believes that the ballot proposal is bad for Ohio and its businesses. We urge a “no” vote.

If voters approve Issue 3, Ohio would become the fifth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and the first state to do so without permitting medical use first. Such legalization would present significant challenges to Ohio employers.

Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, defined under the federal Controlled Substances Act as among the “most dangerous drugs ... with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy.

Even if voters approve Issue 3, marijuana will remain illegal under federal law, including banking laws. As a result, marijuana sales in Ohio would be a cash-only business.

If Issue 3 passes, employers would still be able to test their employees for drugs, and if necessary, to discipline or fire those who test positive for marijuana. But the proposal still creates concerns about safety and accountability.

Supporters of legalization point to Colorado as an example. Yet Ohio, unlike Colorado, is a major manufacturing state. Legalization of marijuana would force Ohio businesses of all types to deal with increased concerns about workplace safety, litigation expenses, and higher insurance costs. Employee absenteeism and turnover, both of which drive up costs to employers, would lead to decreased productivity.

Businesses already face increasing difficulty attracting and retaining employees who can pass a drug test. Legalizing marijuana use in Ohio will hamper our ability to grow the state’s economy and create opportunities. That, in turn, will make attracting employees even harder.

Marijuana will not create new wealth for Ohioans. Since marijuana cannot be exported to other states, growers and retailers will be selling to our neighbors and co-workers. That would merely recirculate money that is already in the community.

Proponents assert that legalization will generate more tax revenue for the state and local communities. Yet groups such as the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Ohio Township Association, and Ohio School Boards Association oppose Issue 3 because of the negative impact legalization would have on our communities.

Similarly rosy tax projections in Colorado have not been realized. Supporters of legalization also don’t mention that any growth in tax revenue would go largely to pay for increased law enforcement and treatment programs.

Colorado’s statistics on increased marijuana among minors are especially disturbing. In 2013, one year after the state legalized marijuana, use among children ages 12 to 17 increased by 6.6 percent. The share of drug-related school expulsions, as a percentage of all violations, rose from 25 to 42 percent.

Colorado also has endured an upward trend in marijuana-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations, among both adults and children. This risk increases as marijuana-infused products become more readily available in forms that are attractive to children, such as candy and cookies.

The data from Colorado also show that legalizing marijuana does not eliminate illegal sales, while it imposes an increased burden on law enforcement.

Approval of Issue 3 would create a cartel in Ohio for commercial marijuana. The amendment specifies 10 commercial growing sites, including one in North Toledo. Those locations, and their owners, are predetermined.

The amendment also would authorize the creation of more than 1,100 marijuana retail stores in Ohio — nearly four times the number of Starbucks coffee shops in Ohio. These retail stores could end up next to our schools and playgrounds. A few individuals who want to sell drugs legally do not create a new industry or lessen the impact on our communities.

As an amendment to the Ohio Constitution, Issue 3 would greatly diminish the ability of your elected representatives — and thus you as a voter — to make necessary changes to the law. Although a new state agency would have limited authority to regulate marijuana, meaningful changes would require another constitutional amendment and another vote.

Issue 3 is bad for Ohio, its citizens, its children, and its businesses. Vote no.

Wendy R. Gramza is president of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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