As a former county prosecutor, I feel that the best way to get the truth about something is to get out and observe it firsthand. Ohioans will vote on a Constitutional amendment to authorize recreational marijuana on November 3rd, so I decided to take a trip to Colorado, where they’ve legalized marijuana, to meet with law enforcement, school officials, parents, doctors, and business owners.
The message I heard from this diverse group of people was unequivocal: “Don’t legalize marijuana.” Here are some of the things I learned:
The impact of legalizing recreational marijuana affects children and teenagers the most. Regardless of what proponents promised, legalizing marijuana sends a message that marijuana is okay and unleashes a huge supply of the drug that easily finds its way into kids’ hands. Since legalizing marijuana, Colorado schools have seen a 40 percent increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions.
I spoke with business people in Colorado who told me about the tremendous increase in failed pre-employment drug tests. For companies who receive federal money or companies that prohibit drug use, it has become incredibly difficult to fill open positions. I was told that it’s common that more than 50% of job applicants will either fail or refuse to take a drug test.
When I asked local, state, and federal law enforcement officials whether they had seen the promised reduction in black market drug trafficking, almost all of them laughed. Several cops estimated that about two-thirds of marijuana sales in the Denver area were illegal black market sales. Legalized marijuana and the difficulties it places on law enforcement has been a boon to illegal drug traffickers. OVIs, fatal accidents, and marijuana-related burglaries are all dramatically up in Colorado, as well.
I spoke with a leading physician at Children’s Hospital in Denver who told us about how many children who had come to Colorado for supposed medical benefits ended up having terrible reactions to the unregulated and homemade medical marijuana in Colorado. Although FDA approved medical marijuana shows promise in clinical trials, she talked a lot about the incredible challenge of treating sick children whose parents were giving them homemade medical marijuana.
Before I went to Colorado, I believed that legalizing recreational marijuana was a bad idea for Ohio. Everything I learned on my trip and everyone I spoke to only reinforced that belief.
Ohio already has a serious drug problem with heroin, and it is destroying families, shrinking our workforce, and hurting the bottom line of many Ohio businesses. The last thing we should do is legalize a drug that will do nothing but make this situation worse.
Mike DeWine is the Ohio Attorney General.