Family Recovery Center opposes Issue 3

As a provider of substance abuse treatment and Drug Free Workplace programming, Family Recovery Center opposes Issue 3, which would legalize the sale and use of marijuana in our state.

1. Proponents contend that marijuana is not addictive. However, our records indicate that of those seeking treatment at Family Recovery Center, addiction to marijuana is among the leading causes for admission. Heroin and cocaine are other leading causes. Addiction is a brain disease, and research shows that there is significant change to the structure and function of four critical areas of the brain that occurs as a result of regular marijuana use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 10-12 percent of those who use alcohol will become addicted to alcohol, 14-18 percent of those who use marijuana will become addicted to marijuana, 28-32 percent of those who use cocaine will become addicted to cocaine, and 60-65 percent of those who use opiates will become addicted to opiates.

2. Issue 3 puts our children at risk. Supporters say if marijuana is legalized, regulations will be put into place that will keep it out of the hands of youths/adolescents. But has this worked with alcohol? No.

Issue 3 legalizes marijuana-infused products like candy and cookies, which often have dangerously high levels of THC and are tempting to children, even very young children. Further, high limits on personal possession of marijuana will result in broader exposure of our children and underage high school and college students to marijuana.

Family Recovery Center tracks outcomes including intent to use drugs from students through our prevention programs. We work with youth throughout Columbiana County. Based on the information they are hearing through the media, that marijuana is safe, we are seeing a significant shift in their attitudes toward marijuana, and an increase in the number that report that they would try marijuana if legalized.

3. Marijuana legalization will have an impact on public safety. Reports from Colorado and Washington, which legalized recreational and medical marijuana, show more people there are driving under the influence of marijuana. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health, the risk of motor vehicle crash doubles among drivers with recent marijuana use. In Colorado from 2007-12, auto fatalities that resulted from marijuana impaired drivers increased 134 percent, from 4 percent of all auto fatalities in 2006 to approximately 10 percent in 2012 involved marijuana impaired drivers.

From 2011-13, there was a 57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits in Colorado. From 2008-13 there was an 82 percent increase in marijuana-related hospital admissions. Infant exposure to marijuana resulting in emergency department visits increased 358 percent from 2011 to 2013.

4. Issue 3 would undermine employers’ ability to protect workers and ensure safe job sites. Family Recovery Center has invested a great deal of time, effort and money into our Drug Free Workplace training program, which aims to help businesses comply with state and federal drug free workplace requirements and reduce the harm, risk and loss of productivity resulting from drug use by employees, as well as educate employees on the effects, dangers and consequences of drug use in the workplace.

Legalization of marijuana would cause great uncertainty for those businesses who drug test their employees and raises several questions about employer liability. Further, in Ohio, the number one concern of employers is not that they do not have jobs available; it is that they cannot find potential employees to fill those jobs that can pass a drug test. Regular use of marijuana stays in the individual’s system longer and as a result will test positive long after the initial use. Because it stays in the system after the initial “high” wears off, the individual will still be under the influence. The only part of the brain that will no longer feel the effects will be the pleasure center, yet the parts of the brain that control reflexes and reaction time, that control memory, and that control decision making will still be affected.

Family Recovery Center joins other addiction treatment providers, mental health professionals, doctors, hospitals, elected officials, faith leaders, chambers of commerce, parents, educators, law enforcement organizations and leading business groups in opposition of Ohio Issue 3.

(Eloise V. Traina is executive director of Family Recovery Center, North Market Street, Lisbon. FRC is a private, non-profit behavioral health treatment center serving the residents of Columbiana County)