Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, March 23, 2015

Making the strongest case against marijuana reform in Ohio

17285982-smallDerek Siegle, who is the executive director of the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, has this new commentary piece which makes the full-throated argument against marijuana reform. I am pleased that this commentary was published just a few days before I am going to have the honor of having Mr. Siegle speak to my marijuana seminar. The opinion piece carries the headline "Ohio should not legalize marijuana unless it wants a lot more addicted young people," and here are excerpts:

As I hear discussions regarding both medical and recreational use of marijuana, I feel compelled to provide some facts regarding this topic. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, "confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of "medical" marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction."

There are many myths being perpetrated by those in favor of legalization. The use or possession of marijuana is not impacting the criminal justice system, as most marijuana arrests do not involve incarceration....

Marijuana stays in your system for 72 hours. Because of this long life, levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, continue to build in our systems. This is not the case with other drugs, to include alcohol. THC is stored in our fatty cells. Since our brains are 99 percent fat, the THC causes these cell walls to expand and become very thick, which decreases their ability to transmit and receive data between nerve cells.

The highest density of cannabinoid receptors is found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Research demonstrates marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person's existing problems worse. Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems, and less academic and career success compared to their peers....

Potential tax revenue will only cover about 15 percent of the collateral costs to our community: increased drug treatment, emergency room visits, crime, traffic accidents and school "dropouts." Allowing individuals to grow their own will only decrease the tax revenue and increase the availability to others....

Legalization will lead to greater use by our youth. Youth surveys indicate more of our children will try marijuana if it is legal. In states where marijuana is legal, most youths are getting their marijuana from someone who legally obtained it. States with legalized marijuana have seen an increase in youth use. For example, states having the top use among 12- to 17-year-olds are states where medical marijuana is legal. Denver's 8th-grade student marijuana use is 350 percent higher than the national average....

Accidents and fatalities from drugged driving, testing positive for marijuana, will also increase as it has in Colorado.... The increase in murders, robberies, burglaries, number of addicts, number of homeless people, use among our youth, is well documented in Colorado. As the governor of Colorado said, "This is a bad idea."

Because Mr. Siegle is the executive director of a federally funded grant program that provides funding, training and support to drug task forces throughout Ohio, I have requested that he present to my students whatever Ohio-specific data he has about marijuana use/abuse and other drug use/abuse in the Buckeye state.  I would expect, perhaps even hope, that legalization of marijuana in any jurisdiction would lead to an increase in the use of this drug, but there is reason to believe, and certainly hope, that it might also lead to a decrease in the use of other more dangerous (legal and illegal) drugs.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2015/03/making-the-strongest-case-against-marijuana-reform-in-ohio.html

Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink

Comments

I look forward to hearing Mr. Siegle’s views on how marijuana legalization will affect the criminal justice system. Many people who advocate for marijuana legalization argue that the legalization of marijuana will provide law enforcement with more time and resources to focus on more serious crime. However, if Mr. Siegle’s data is correct, this may be untrue. If marijuana legalization will actually increase serious crime, such as murder, robbery, and burglary, law enforcement officers may actually have a harder time handling the serious crime caseload after legalization. Although officers would have more time to spend on investigating and preventing serious crime, there would be more serious crime occurring than before. Therefore, if Mr. Siegle’s data is correct, this argument by marijuana legalization advocates may not be as strong as previously believed. I am definitely interested to hear his views in class.

Posted by: Heather Spangler | Mar 23, 2015 7:36:11 AM

Violent crime is a corollary of the black market. I have not been able to find evidence supporting Mr. Siegle's contention that violent crime has increased since Colorado legalized marijuana but I have found evidence to the contrary. Black market actors necessarily resort to extralegal means of resolving disputes because they cannot seek legal remedies. Once you legalize a substance, like marijuana, you give people access to the justice system to resolve their disputes. Legalization may not immediately destroy the marijuana black market like we've seen in Washington and Colorado, but there's no question that it has minimized it in those states. And I think legalizing marijuana in Ohio would do the same. I look forward to hearing more about the data Mr. Siegle has in this area.

Posted by: Marissa Black | Mar 24, 2015 5:26:54 AM

While it would be satisfying on a certain level to respond to this piece point for point (which I may do in a separate blog), the fact is that there are no solutions here. The argument is essentially that doing something besides perpetuating current policy will make things worse. In reality, states are moving on and more states are noticing – both among voters and their elected officials.

There are compelling studies that contradict each of these dire warnings on youth use rates, costs, health, etc., and both sides can and do point to instances in support of arguments about what may come – eutopia or dystopia. But the fact is quite simply that the sky has not fallen since states started decriminalizing in the 70’s, or legalized medical marijuana since the 90’s, or passed adult-use legalization starting three years ago. Scare tactics can be effective, but they will not turn the tide when the experience among cops on the streets of Denver, or researchers looking at youth usage rates in medical marijuana states, or doctors recommending medical marijuana to patients, or the Colorado Department of Transportation stats on fatalities on the highways contradict all these assertions. The most effective argument against those who predict the end is near, is time.

Posted by: Chris Lindsey | Mar 24, 2015 7:56:23 AM

While it would be satisfying on a certain level to respond to this piece point for point (which I may do in a separate blog), the fact is that there are no solutions here. The argument is essentially that doing something besides perpetuating current policy will make things worse. In reality, states are moving on and more states are noticing – both among voters and their elected officials.

There are compelling studies that contradict each of these dire warnings on youth use rates, costs, health, etc., and both sides can and do point to instances in support of arguments about what may come – eutopia or dystopia. But the fact is quite simply that the sky has not fallen since states started decriminalizing in the 70’s, or legalized medical marijuana since the 90’s, or passed adult-use legalization starting three years ago. Scare tactics can be effective, but they will not turn the tide when the experience among cops on the streets of Denver, or researchers looking at youth usage rates in medical marijuana states, or doctors recommending medical marijuana to patients, or the Colorado Department of Transportation stats on fatalities on the highways contradict all these assertions. The most effective argument against those who predict the end is near, is time.

Posted by: Chris Lindsey | Mar 24, 2015 7:56:23 AM

Try not to be too hard on Mr. Siegle, keeping in mind Upton Sinclair's words: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Posted by: Richard Kennedy | Mar 24, 2015 2:28:40 PM

That is so true - his salary would be among the many savings to Ohio tax payers.

Posted by: beth | Apr 5, 2015 4:18:24 PM

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