The Wayne County business and law enforcement communities are firmly opposed to Issue 3, a ballot measure that seeks to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use.
The Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce and Medway Drug Enforcement Agency released statements urging voters to vote against Issue 3 and simultaneously vote in favor of Issue 2.
Issue 2 seeks to keep petitioners from using the Ohio Constitution to grant themselves a monopoly.
“Finding a drug-free work force is a challenge for local businesses,” said Justin Starlin, president of the Wooster Chamber. “If Issue 3 would pass, it would increase that difficulty.”
Both the Chamber and the Wayne Economic Development Council released statements explaining their concerns.
Besides the two entities’ top concern of a drug-free work force and work place, they also are concerned about creating a monopoly in the state constitution, the worry marijuana use would only increase if made legal and sales of edibles — such as candies, brownies and cookies.
Faith Oltman, spokeswoman for ResponsibleOhio, the entity that has mobilized the efforts to push for passage of Issue 3, said the time is now for legalizing marijuana.
Besides bringing “compassionate care” to patients suffering from severe illnesses, Oltman said Issue 3 would create nearly 30,000 jobs directly and indirectly, increase tax revenues by over $550 million and reduce the burden on law enforcement.
Oltman said a recent poll showed over 90 percent of Ohioans support medicinal marijuana usage. “A chance like this probably won’t come around for at least another decade.”
“One of the biggest concerns is the increases of impaired driving,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Dan Lutz. But there are other issues places such as Colorado are still learning about as unintended consequences of legalizing marijuana. “I think we don’t know all of the repercussions yet,” he noted.
Lutz said he is concerned legalizing it would make it easier for marijuana to get into children’s hands and the legislation would build a monopoly into the state constitution. He added after reading through the issue, it was clear this is a bad piece of law.
“Even if someone is in favor of legalizing marijuana, I don’t think this is the way to do it,” Lutz said. He said he is not in favor of legalizing marijuana. “If marijuana is legalized, it will be the next big tobacco industry.”
Likewise, Lutz said he is in favor of Issue 2 as the best way to defeat Issue 3.
Don Hall, director of Medway and Wayne County’s drug task force, encouraged voters to review the way Issue 3 is structured.
“The way it’s currently set up … I believe this is a train wreck waiting to happen,” Hall said.
He called Issue 3 “10 millionaires” seeking to write a monopoly into the state constitution with “really no regulations.” Issue 3 would allow up to 1,159 retail marijuana stores across the state, Hall said, exceeding all of the Starbucks and McDonald’s locations combined.
Law enforcement agencies have expressed concerns over edibles. Hall said in states that have legalized marijuana, such as Washington state, fatalities and drug-driving incidents have increased.
“I don’t think you’ll find one cop who is against the medicinal uses of marijuana as a way to enhance a person’s way of life,” Hall said. But he reiterated the issues with the way the amendment is drafted. “I encourage people to just educate themselves.”
Lutz also said there is a concern, should Issue 3 pass, about K-9 units, which are trained to detect marijuana.
“I don’t know if you can un-learn a dog,” Lutz said, explaining probable cause to search a vehicle could be called into doubt if a dog detects marijuana. “If they can’t be trained not to alert to marijuana,” then K-9s become an issue, Lutz said, remedied only by acquiring newly trained dogs.
The following law enforcement heads support a no vote on Issue 3 — Wayne County Sheriff, Wooster PD, Rittman, Orrville, Creston, Brunswick and Wayne County prosecutor.
Reporter Steve Huszai can be reached at 330-287-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is @GeneralSmithie on Twitter.