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Rally against Medical Pot

Earlier this month, anti-marijuana forces in our state took a page from the pro-marijuana playbook and staged a rally at the state capitol. The rally was in reaction to recent attempts to get a measure on the ballot that would alter Ohio’s constitution to make medical marijuana a right for our residents.

According the Review, some heavy hitters showed up to speak at the event, including a former deputy director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Review quoted Andrea Barthwell, who served under George W. Bush, “Marijuana is unreliable. It’s full of contaminants – bird droppings, animal carcasses. And it exposes the sick and dying to a number of potential problems that can worsen their condition.”

She had a tough case to make, since many prescription drugs already have extensive side effects – we rely on our doctors to monitor the situation and decide whether the benefits are worth the risk. Medical marijuana would be no different, and with fewer side effects than some of the most commonly prescribed drugs, it’s hard to make much of her objection.

Other objections, such as marijuana being a gateway drug, fall flat as well. The points have been argued successfully by advocates already. The real challenge comes from framing marijuana as appealing only to slackers and a barrier between young people and success. By linking marijuana use to poorer outcomes in education and employment, and then asserting that legalization for medical use will increase use in young people, there might be a case for caution. And for a constitutional amendment, caution may be enough to keep it from being enacted.

Citizens are very careful about changing state constitutions. They know that mistakes will be difficult to fix and unintended consequences lurk behind each sentence of a change. In the case of Ohio, it may be enough for opponents of legal weed to introduce doubt, without winning the debate outright.

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