Pubdate: Fri, 18 Sep 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


Law-enforcement officials fear fatal accidents involving 
marijuana-impaired drivers will increase.

Ohio law-enforcement agencies voiced full-throated opposition to 
legalizing marijuana, saying it poses public-safety hazards, 
particularly on the highways.

"Issue 3 is bad for Ohio and bad for our roadways and public places," 
Jay McDonald, president of the 25,000-member Ohio Fraternal Order of 
Police, said at a news conference on Thursday.

McDonald was joined by representatives from organizations 
representing police chiefs, sheriffs and county prosecutors in 
opposing State Issue 3, a proposed constitutional amendment that will 
appear on the Nov. 3 statewide ballot. The issue would legalize 
marijuana use for those 21 or older and medicinal marijuana for 
people with qualifying health problems.

McDonald and other law enforcement officials said they fear there 
will be an increase in deadly marijuana-impaired accidents, such as 
those reported in Oregon and Colorado, where marijuana is fully legal.

Union County Prosecutor David W. Phillips, incoming president of the 
Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said he is concerned that 
black-market sales of pot will continue if the law passes. He said 
Colorado reported a jump in intercepted marijuana being shipped out of state.

"Ohio will become a source state for surrounding states for these 
drugs," Phillips said.

ResponsibleOhio, the organization backing the for-profit marijuana 
plan, issued a statement in response saying unless legalization is 
approved, "Ohio will continue to surrender our streets to the black 
market - a threat to our communities that won't go away without 
reform. Instead of calling on myths, our public officials should 
focus on our opportunity to increase public safety by legalizing 
marijuana. In states that have legal and regulated marijuana, crime 
is down and revenue is up."

ResponsibleOhio has run TV commercials featuring retired Cincinnati 
Police Capt. Howard Rahtz, who supports Issue 3. "I saw firsthand the 
effects of Ohio's destructive marijuana laws," he says in the ad. 
"Simply put, they don't work. Ohio spends over $100 million each year 
on this failed effort."

McDonald disputed Rahtz's claims.

"I can tell you that is flat-out wrong," he said. "We don't target 
marijuana users."

McDonald, who is a city of Marion police officer, said the only time 
his department targets marijuana dealers is when they sell to 
high-school students. Possession of quantities of marijuana up to 200 
grams is a misdemeanor in Ohio, not punishable by prison time.

"Marijuana is just not on our priority list at all," he said. "People 
who believe people are in prison for having a joint in their pocket 
are misinformed."

Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon K. Standley said he's worried that 
pot legalization could lead to greater drug problems.

"Where does it all stop? If we open the door to marijuana, what's next?"
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom