Marijuana legalization debate heats up

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A political action committee thinks it is going to have enough signatures to get a marijuana legalization amendment on the November ballot.

ResponsibleOhio spent the day in the Mahoning Valley on Wednesday talking about the issue. There has been an effort to get use of medical marijuana through the legislature for years, but it has failed. 

The committee, which plans to gather 800,000 signatures by July, said marijuana would be regulated like alcohol and buyers would have to be 21 years old and there would be a marijuana control commission.

“We need to make sure that we are regulating the process, we are testing the product and we are taxing it. We need to also make sure it stays out of kids’ hands because right now, drug dealers don’t card your kids. For a lot of them, it is about cash, not conscience,” Ian James of ResponsibleOhio said. “You should not be captive to zip code to not be able to have that compassionate care that marijuana provides.”

The 16-page amendment spells out testing, taxing and regulating the drug.

“We know that we are not great at regulating who uses alcohol or the consequences of alcohol. When we look at pieces like domestic violence, alcohol plays a huge part in that. So are there other consequences beyond just someone sitting in their home using marijuana? Yes, there absolutely are,” said Angela McClellan from the Coalition For a Drug Free Mahoning County.

From a law enforcement stand point, Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said legal recreational use of marijuana will likely create a black market for the drug.

“It would immediately cause a black market. They have seen that happen in Colorado and they have seen that happen in Washington. Money gets generated through taxes to go to the state and it becomes expensive to purchase legally,” Greene said.

He said he understands using the drug for medical purposes, but as far as personal use, he said he is “dead set” against that. The sheriff thinks marijuana can be a gateway drug.

“We are noticing it’s a public health crisis. We are noticing more than double the incidents of traffic fatalities where the person who caused the accident had only marijuana in their system,” McClellan said.

The Coalition for a Drug Free Mahoning County said if this amendment gets on the ballot, it will do a grassroots effort in the community, focusing on businesses.

“Helping employers to understand what the amendment could mean to them as an employer,” McClellan said.

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