Emotions ran high at a marijuana legalization debate today as advocates for both sides clashed on monopolies, legislation inaction and marijuana for medical use.
The two main combatants at the Columbus Metropolitan Club lunch forum at the Athletic Club Downtown were state Rep. Mike Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, and Ian James, executive directive of ResponsibleOhio, the group backing State Issue 3, the marijuana legalization amendment.
Curtin slammed ResponsibleOhio’s proposal as “an investor-business driven plan to maximize profits by creating a monopoly...that has no place in our Ohio Constitution.” He said approving Issue 3 would “create a monopoly in perpetuity” in Ohio’s foundational document.
James countered that legalization backers would not have pushed a constitutional amendment had state lawmakers not ignored — for nearly two decades — marijuana reform legislation. “The reason we put it in the constitution is because we don’t trust the legislature, plain and simple.”
Curtin said Issue 3, which includes marijuana for recreational and medical use, is “an open door to exploitation” that will “catapult Ohio to the absolute bleeding edge” of pot laws in the country.” He called the issue “a prostitution of Ohio’s constitution.”
James accused opponents of “reefer madness,” a reference to a 1936 cult film intended, at the time, as a warning to parents about the dangers of marijuana.
The Ohio Constitution, James said, is “not the Magna Carta,” a European ancestor of the U.S. Constitution. He said Ohio’s constitution has been amended numerous times by special interests, including provisions regarding same-same marriage, casinos and livestock.
The debate also included attorneys Chris Stock, a ResponsibleOhio founder, and Elizabeth Smith, representing Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies.
Earlier today, the negative effects of marijuana legalization on young people, including children five and under were discussed by two health experts.
Dr. Sarah Denny, a pediatric physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Jim Joyner, a veteran chemical dependency counselor, spoke at a press conference set up by Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies. The coalition of business, clergy, health care and community organizations opposes Issue 3.
Denny said she is concerned as a pediatrician and parent about the potential danger of children smoking marijuana or eating marijuana-laced food products. She said children five and under face particular health risks from ingesting marijuana which they may easily mistake for candy or other sweets.
“Edible marijuana products are particularly concerning because of their bright colors and likeness to food that a young child is already familiar with,” Denny said. “Kids can’t assess risk very well.”
Joyner said legalizing marijuana is a bad idea in a country that is already “the drug capital of the world.” He said ResponsibleOhio, the group backing the legalization issue, is “using fear and distrust to convince Ohio voters that marijuana is safe. It isn’t.”
ResponsibleOhio responded with a statement. “Sick and suffering Ohioans deserve access to treatment that works at a price they can afford. Issue 3 will provide compassionate care to those in need and denying patients of that much-needed medicine is unconscionable.”