Columbus -- Groups that oppose medical marijuana ballot initiatives voiced concern Feb. 27 that deep-pocketed national groups are targeting Ohio among potential states to legalize drug use.
The Drug Free Action Alliance and the Alcohol and Drug Prevention Association of Ohio are calling the medical marijuana initiatives a "charade" by advocates to allow more widespread use of the drug.
"We're not dealing with guys in hemp T-shirts singing Kumbaya," said Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the White House on drug issues and outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization. "We're dealing with multi-million-dollar lobbies that have sprouted across this country that are coming to Ohio and have targeted Ohio The first step toward changing the law toward full legalization is medical marijuana."
Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance, added, "We know that we're in the crosshairs of what they want to do. We know that this is a very complex issue. This is an issue that takes a lot of education, a lot of research to get people to understand how complex it is. Unfortunately, the other side can put it on a bumper sticker and a cute little saying, and we have to get a lot of information to people that can't fit on a bumper sticker"
Sabet and Seidel spoke during a press conference on the issue at the Statehouse Feb. 27.
Petition drives were launched last year by competing medical marijuana groups, who hope to place constitutional amendments before voters.
Supporters say more than a dozen states already have medical marijuana laws on the books, and many other states have comparable legislation pending. Proponents also say the goal is not to legalize casual marijuana use.
But the Drug Free Action Alliance and others counter those assertions, saying the economic and social costs of medical marijuana far outweigh any benefits.
"Make no mistake about it -- this medical pot initiative is bad policy, it's bad economic policy, it's bad social policy," said Sue Thau, representing the Community Anti Drug Coalitions of America. "
Thau said youngsters who start using marijuana hurt their future employment opportunities.
"[We want] Ohioans to be smarter and more competitive, not stupider and less competitive," Thau said, citing a study that found early marijuana users had decreasing intelligence quotients. " I don't think Ohio can afford to have more and more and more kids that really are not going to show up for work, not be employable, not be able to graduate from college."
Sabet said he isn't opposed to using components of marijuana for medical purposes, but he said the resulting pharmaceuticals, OK'd by regulators and prescribed in a responsible manner, would be a far cry from the cigarettes smoked by drug users.
He cited morphine, derived from opium, as an example.
"Let's make sure we have compassion for the truly sick and dying," Sabet said. "Let's enroll them in an FDA program where they can actually get medications even before they're approved that are non-smoked but that are dosed properly and that are under the supervision of their own doctor, not under the supervision for an hour of a doctor that costs $200 to get their medical marijuana recommendation, cash only."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.