Pubdate: Wed, 16 Sep 2015
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Alan Johnson


The latest update on marijuana in Colorado is being called ominous by 
Ohio pot opponents and "fear mongering" by advocates leading up to 
the Nov. 3 election, when voters will decide legalization here.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area's third 
annual report, released on Monday, showed the effects of legal 
marijuana in that state, including a 32 percent jump in 
marijuana-related traffic fatalities, big increases in emergency-room 
visits and hospitalizations, and greater pot usage by youths age 12 to 17.

The report, generated by the agency funded through the National 
Office of Drug Control Policy, also showed 40 percent more school 
expulsions, most of them marijuana related, since 2008; greater 
exposure of young children to the drug; a 2,000 percent increase in 
the number of Colorado mail parcels intercepted destined for other 
states; and 32 marijuana extraction-lab explosions in 2014.

Curt Steiner, a political consultant and spokesman for Ohioans 
Against Marijuana Monopolies, said the report is handwriting on the 
wall if Ohio approves legalizing marijuana for recreational and medicinal use.

"There's a lot at stake for the voters in Ohio," Steiner said. "A few 
self-selected wealthy investors are doing something that could 
inflict permanent damage on our state."

ResponsibleOhio, the group backing the marijuana amendment, called 
the report "fear mongering."

Ian James, ResponsibleOhio executive director, disputed some of the 
findings, saying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 
"has already looked at this and confirmed there is no increased crash 
risk associated with testing positive for marijuana."

He said a Colorado Healthy Kids Survey showed "marijuana use among 
youth has gone down after legalization."

"Yes on Issue 3 is a solution for Ohioans to overturn failed 
marijuana prohibition," James said. "Without it, we'll continue to 
surrender our streets to drug dealers who don't create legitimate 
jobs, care about sick Ohioans, pay taxes or ID kids before they sell to them."

But while traffic deaths in general have declined in Colorado, the 
percentage of marijuana-related fatalities increased, the report 
said. The Healthy Kids Survey was from 2013, a year before marijuana 
became legal for personal use in Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain report uses data gathered from dozens of 
law-enforcement, healthcare and other agencies. It cites several 
Colorado news stories: stuffed animals filled with marijuana, 7.2 
pounds of marijuana-infused Halloween candy, and a 10 percent 
increase in the crime rate in Denver.

Of the roughly $63.4 million in taxes raised by marijuana sales, $22 
million went to enforcement, $29.9 million to schools and $6.6 
million to local government.

Colorado has 322 retail pot stories, 397 cultivation sites, 98 
infusion businesses and 16 testing facilities. In addition, there are 
505 dispensaries and 748 cultivation sites for medical marijuana.

State Issue 3 in Ohio is a proposed constitutional amendment calling 
for legalization of marijuana for recreational use for those 21 or 
older and medicinal use for those with documented ailments. The 
proposal would limit commercial pot cultivation to sites owned by 10 
investment groups that are funding the campaign. Marijuana sales 
would be taxed at all levels, with proceeds mainly going to local governments.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom