Last updated: September 28, 2020
Next month Ohio voters will head to the ballot box to decide the legal status of marijuana in the Buckeye State. If supporters of legalization have their way and Issue 3 passes, pot will be legalized for both medical and recreational use. According to recent polls, the issue remains far from decided, with 46 percent of voters pro legalization, 46 percent against, and 8 percent still undecided. USAMDT of Cleveland, Ohio continues to follow legalization efforts on its site.
If passed, the bill would, among other things, make medical and recreation pot legal for individuals 21 years of age and older, allow licensed adults to grow up to four flowering plants at home, limit commercial pot growth to 10 preselected sites owned by investors who subsidized Responsible Ohio, and establish a regulatory body to issue licenses and oversee the industry.
Doctors from Cleveland’s largest—and internationally recognized—medical establishments recently came out forcefully against legalization, a stand that may well tip the scales come election day. Their most powerful arguments against Issue 3 include increasingly clear evidence of marijuana’s harmful effects on the brain, particularly among adolescents; the increased likelihood of teen abuse of edible weed, which would become more readily available if pot sales are legalized; a potential increase in psychotic episodes and ER trauma visits, including those resulting from automobile accidents; and the lack of evidence supporting marijuana as a medicinal plant.
Legalization would give rise to other complications, especially given the fact that the DEA still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance and considers its use illegal.
That being the case, even if pot is legalized in Ohio, employers would still have the right to establish a drug-free workplace and require testing of prospective and current employees. Indications of marijuana use would continue to be grounds for dismissal. The fact that the new law would require employers to accept medical marijuana as they would other prescription medications will no doubt land opposing parties in court to decide whether employers’ federally recognized rights can be circumvented by state law.
In any case, federal employees based in Ohio would continue to be required to take drug tests.
Since welfare is also funded by the federal government, recipients could conceivably be held to the same standards as government workers, and legislation to require drug testing for welfare recipients could be seen as a logical extension of federal policy.
That policy has already begun to trickle down to the state level, with thirteen states requiring assistance applicants to submit to drug testing. Ohio legislators will soon follow suit and introduce a state bill requiring applicants for Ohio First cash assistance to complete a drug-abuse screening questionnaire, in order to identify individuals who may have a drug problem. Those applicants would then have to take a urine test.
So what happens if test results are positive or the applicant refuses to take the test? In either those cases, the individual would be funneled into a treatment program—paid for by Medicaid or state funds set aside for that purpose—while benefits are forwarded to an approved manager. The idea is to provide help for drug abusers but continue to support children and spouses via the third-party administrators.
Critics of the proposed legislation say it unfairly singles out poor Ohioans, reinforcing the stereotype of welfare recipients as drug abusers, when statistics actually show drug use is no more widespread among that segment of the population than others. They also cite legal challenges striking down similar laws in other states.
Proponents say this bill was written in a way that will avoid similar legal challenges. They also point out that while the number of abusers identified in other states has sometimes been small, recent studies indicate the ability to get off public assistance is often scotched by drug abuse. Requiring a drug test, they say, can act as a deterrent, better positioning recipients for financial independence. Furthermore, any measure designed to identify and treat the problem, to ensure assistance money actually goes to families in need and stays out of dealers’ pockets, can only benefit the state of Ohio and its residents.