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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Opponents of authorizing adult-use cannabis claim Ohio would incur an increase in fatal and injury car crashes, while supporters say the argument is deceiving.
Passage of Issue 2 on Nov. 7 to legalize recreational marijuana would cause Ohio to suffer 48 more fatal car crashes and 2,298 more injury crashes, according to projections from the anti-Issue 2 group Protect Ohio Workers and Families. The coalition used 10-year data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that found death rates increased 4.1% and injury rates by 5.8% after states legalized adult-use cannabis.
“Why would we ever go to the ballot and knowingly, willingly, vote these new death and injuries upon ourselves, our families, our neighbors? It’s cruel and unthinkable,” said Gary Wolske, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police president, in a statement. “These statistics are real and this will happen, if not exactly these numbers, then something like them.”
|Crash Type||2022||Projection After Legalization||Amount of Increase|
Tom Haren, spokesperson for the pro-Issue 2 group Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said studies like the one by Protect Ohio Workers and Families do not demonstrate a causal link between regulation and those crashes, like a population increase. Also, pointing to an increase in drivers testing positive for cannabis after a crash is misleading, said Haren.
“We know that marijuana stays in your system for several days, if not weeks, so if somebody has a cannabis edible on Wednesday and they get into a fender bender on Saturday, no rational person will say, ‘You know what caused that traffic crash? It was the gummy that you had three and a half days ago,'” Haren said during an Oct. 4 Issue 2 forum.
Marijuana can be detectable in one’s system for up to 30 days, the American Addiction Centers states. Although cannabis and many other drugs have been shown to impair driving performance and are associated with increased crash risk, a report from the National Transportation Safety Board found, relative to alcohol, awareness about the potential dangers of driving after using other drugs is lower.
Drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for cannabis jumped in Michigan from 26.4% in 2018 to 39.4% in 2020 after the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2019, according to the Illinois Adult Use Cannabis Health Advisory Committee in a report comparing Illinois with other states. The report also said 37.3% of Illinois drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2020 tested positive for marijuana, compared with 25.2% in 2019 and 25.5% in 2018, after the state legalized in 2020.
However, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found drivers tend to increase their following distance behind other cars to compensate for their impairment.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Aug. 16 that the statute to legalize recreational marijuana would join an abortion rights constitutional amendment and local elections — such as Columbus’ election for mayor and city council — on the Nov. 7 ballot. The statute generally seeks to legalize adult-use sale, purchase and possession of cannabis for Ohioans who are 21 and older. Under the text of the proposed law, Ohioans could also grow a small number of plants in their homes.
Unlike the abortion rights amendment, Issue 2 will appear as an initiated statute — giving state lawmakers the final word. The governor does not have the authority to veto a proposal made law via the ballot, according to the Ohio Constitution, but legislators can still propose and pass modifications to the new law after the election.
Ohio could take in $218 million in tax revenue if the state votes to pass Issue 2, according to estimates from Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. The center reported the estimates based on tax revenue data collected from states with a similar population and states with mature recreational marijuana markets.
Close to 59% percent of likely Ohio voters, responding to a Suffolk University/USA Today poll, said they would vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Only 6.6% were undecided, with 34.8% against the issue. If passed, Ohio would be the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana.