Editorial: The Pot Editorial That Should Not Be

The big vote for marijuana legalization is coming up on Nov. 3, and the usual shouting match between people who think “Reefer Madness” is a documentary and those who talk about marijuana like it’s a two-way radio with the divine has flared up as expected.

ResponsibleOhio’s attempts at legalization are complex, and this editorial is not a tally in support of ResponsibleOhio, but an explanation of why legalization is the best course of action in 2015. We shouldn’t have to explain this, but unfortunately our hands are tied on this one.

Let’s start with the obvious. Marijuana, as a schedule 1 drug, is viewed by the federal government as having no medical benefit. It’s equal to heroin and more seriously prosecuted by the federal government than cocaine, opiates and methamphetamines. The arguments for and against pot as a medicine are hotly debated, but in a culture where chronic stress is linked to the six major causes of death, the case for chronic as medication is clear.

The current chief of the Drug Enforcement Agency admits that marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as heroin. Yet they are policed — or at least the law suggests they should be — with the same rigor.

The argument for legalization isn’t claiming marijuana is good, it’s that the costs associated with prohibition are greater than the costs associated with legalization.

In a Vindicator editorial, the Ohio Hospital Association is mentioned as a source opposing legalization. The OHA claims that marijuana use negatively impacts the long-term health of Ohio. They cite negative neurological effects to children exposed to second-hand smoke and low birth weight in babies whose mothers get high while pregnant.

Apart from the laughable idea that marijuana use is in some way even a blip on the “things Ohioans do that will eventually kill them” radar, the crux of the OHA’s argument seems to be a “but what of the CHILDREN?” plea. It’s an appeal to emotion. A fallacy.

People who want to get high while pregnant are already doing it, and those who don’t generally are not the people you would expect to all of a sudden decide they’re going to start smoking up when they’ve got a bun in the oven just because it’s legal.

We haven’t made it illegal to drink while pregnant. There are just some strongly worded warnings about doing it, despite drinking during pregnancy being linked to actual birth defects, not just “low birth weight.” The OHA doesn’t even have a page dedicated to warning people about all the risks associated with alcohol consumption, yet it decides it’s necessary to make a public statement arguing to keep marijuana illegal for the sake of the kids.

The OHA may also want to issue a call for the prohibition of addictive prescription drugs. While marijuana is often touted as a “gateway drug,” according to a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry, three quarters of heroin addicts turn to the drug after becoming addicted to prescription pills.

Rather than calling for the prohibition of prescription pills to protect from heroin abuse — for the record, we shouldn’t do that — state law now allows for pharmacies to sell Narcan without a prescription. Narcan is a drug which can help keep heroin overdose victims alive long enough for help to arrive.

CVS can be trusted to dole out pills that might lead people to heroin use. CVS can be trusted to hand out a drug used to treat heroin overdoses, but Ohio adults can’t be trusted with a plant that has killed approximately zero people in the entirety of its history. Gotta protect those kids though.

What about the college kids who get arrested on non-violent pot offenses, enter the system and have their lives derailed because they wanted to feel goofy for an hour? Shouldn’t we be concerned with the welfare of our nation’s children in the pivotal years when they’re studying to become adult members of society? Or does that become inconvenient for the emotional plea?

It’s even worse for black Americans. A recent New York Times piece by Sendhil Mullainathan analyzed data from fatal police shootings in which black Americans were killed, and concluded that black Americans are shot more often because they encounter the police far more often than other races.

Police, drugs and black people tend to have hefty representation in low-income neighborhoods. Despite using marijuana at the same rate as white Americans, black Americans are as much as 30 times more likely than white Americans to be arrested on marijuana charges according to the ACLU.

Not only would legalization keep otherwise non-violent offenders out of prison — where they could certainly learn to be violent from those who’ve done it well enough to earn a room — but it very well may help reduce the number of fatal shootings in police encounters.

This is to say nothing of the revenue it would bring into the state.

Do some research on the issue, don’t just take our word for it. Don’t take the OHA’s, don’t take your dealer’s, don’t take the Vindicator’s and certainly don’t take ResponsibleOhio’s views. Look at the claims and seek out actual data before you cast your vote, both on legalization and on the monopoly argument.

The worst thing you can do is assume this issue is a no-brainer.

The editorial board that writes editorials consists of the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, the copy editor, and the news editor. These opinion pieces are written separately from news articles. They draw on the opinions of the entire writing staff and do not reflect the opinions of any individual staff member. The Jambar’s business manager and non-writing staff do not contribute to editorials, and the adviser does not have final approval.