Tuesday, Oct 23, 2018
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Stores begin drug tracker as debate on pot persists


COLUMBUS — Shortly after hearing a Carrollton woman describe how her 21-year-old daughter died of a heroin overdose after first experimenting with marijuana, Gov. John Kasich on Monday said he’s already cast his absentee ballot in opposition to Issue 3.

“When you go around telling kids not to do drugs … and then they read that we might legalize marijuana, I just think it’s a mixed message that’s not good,” the governor said following a news conference focused on fighting addiction to prescription painkillers.

Voters will be asked on Nov. 3 whether they want to make Ohio the first state east of Colorado to legalize the use of pot for recreational, medical, and commercial purposes.

As shoppers picked up products, Mr. Kasich stood near the pharmacy inside a Kroger store in Columbus.

The chain was among the first to voluntarily use an integrated computer system that makes it easier to track prescriptions of narcotic painkillers such as Oxycontin and prevent patients from jumping between doctors for prescriptions. The state is making $1.5 million a year available to help pharmacies integrate with the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, or OARRS.

“I think the message to Ohioans, despite the fact we still see a tsunami of drugs, is we’re not going to give up in this state until we win more and more battles, maybe ultimately the war,” Mr. Kasich said. “But it’s tough, and we can’t just whistle past a problem here. We are seeing fewer prescriptions being written, which is good.”

Tonda DaRe of Carrollton described how her 21-year-old daughter, Holly Noel, died of an overdose after being introduced to marijuana and then moving on to prescription painkillers.

“They say marijuana is just a plant that doesn’t kill anybody,” she said. “From marijuana, she started taking prescription drugs considering there are so many out there that are being prescribed over and over and over. Once they changed the formulation of prescription drugs so these kids couldn’t crush it and snort it, they had nowhere else to turn but heroin.”

Faith Oltman, spokesman for ResponsibleOhio, the investor-financed group behind Issue 3, said states that have legalized marijuana have seen the number of opiate and heroin overdoses drop along with admissions to drug treatment clinics for treatment for those drugs.

“Another aspect of medical marijuana legalization is that it helps us in the fight against heroin and opioid addiction,” she said. “People have access to pain medication through marijuana, which is far less addictive and is not a gateway to harder drug use like prescription drugs.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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