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Who is campaigning against recreational marijuana in Ohio, and how?

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Less than two weeks after Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that an adult-use marijuana initiated statute would appear Ohio ballots this November, coalitions on both sides of the issue have begun campaigning. 

When asked last week about the proposal, Gov. Mike DeWine said it would be a mistake, in part citing the steadily increasing potency of the plant. 

“We’re dealing with a different marijuana. It’s not your grandfather’s marijuana,” DeWine said. 

But Tom Haren — spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, the coalition that got Issue 2 on the ballot — said that is something DeWine and he see eye-to-eye on. 

“I actually agree it’s not our grandfather’s marijuana. Our grandfather’s marijuana wasn’t tested in pharmaceutical-grade testing labs,” Haren said. “It wasn’t produced in GMP-quality facilities. It wasn’t subject to rigorous statewide regulations.”

Anti-Issue 2 coalition forming ahead of election

Aside from DeWine and a cohort of GOP state lawmakers, several other organizations have announced their opposition. They largely include law enforcement associations, such as the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and Sheriffs Association, and medical ones, such as the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association.

The official anti-Issue 2 coalition was dubbed Protect Ohio Workers and Families. 

Jason Pappas, vice president of the state FOP, said he worries about seeing a higher number of impaired drivers. That will take time away from officers, he said, when they are dealing with impaired drivers and simultaneously unable to respond to other “critical, lifesaving 911 calls.” 

“There’s still a whole host of issues that law enforcement has to address, even with legalization. It just kind of muddies the water, if you will, about what our responsibilities might end up being,” he said. 

No equivalent for alcohol breathalyzer tests exist for marijuana, but field sobriety tests can determine impairment by any sort of substance, he said. Both he and Haren said officers would be able to take on the task if the proposal passes in the fall. 

“They’re doing it right now, here in Ohio,” Haren said. “We want to regulate marijuana the same way that we regulate alcohol. If somebody is pulled over, and they’re impaired by alcohol, the officers are trained to recognize that impairment. And there is training available to also recognize if the driver is impaired by any other substance.”

Some data shows that injury and fatal crashes did rise in states shortly after recreational marijuana was legalized, according to the National Institute of Health, at about 5.8% and 4.1% respectively.

DeWine and others opposing Issue 2 also cited negative effects on minors in the state — including an increase in accidental ingestions. Legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use normalizes it for children, he argued. “You totally change the culture,” he said. 

Haren disagreed, saying a black market already exists.

“We know that regulation presents the best opportunity to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors,” he said. “If a regulated dispensary breaks that rule and sells to a minor, they lose their license and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars that they’ve invested in their business. Regulation will be a good thing for all of Ohio. It will generate additional tax revenue. It will make products safer.”