(WKBN) – The House Health Committee voted to send a bill forward that would add autism to the list of approved conditions for medical marijuana use, and 73 new medical dispensaries are coming to Ohio.
The Ohio Pharmacy Board chose the dispensaries through a lottery system Thursday, but who was selected won’t be released until after the applicants have been properly vetted.
The state is spending millions on a public health campaign warning about the possible dangers of marijuana use.
27 First News talked with a group trying to legalize recreational marijuana and got their reaction to the campaign.
“Right now we have a completely unregulated adult-use program. It’s called the black market,” said Tom Haren, a spokesperson for Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol.
Ohio is allocating $5.4 million for a campaign aimed at warning the public about the dangers of alcohol and marijuana, and another $5 million over four years specifically targeted at the youth.
“I don’t view this as opposition to our effort. In fact, I think it’s consistent given that we also have funding for very similar efforts,” said Haren.
Under the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol’s plan for legalization, they expect to designate $100 million annually for abuse prevention programs.
“Legal program would generate around $400 million annually in new tax revenue, and under our proposal, 25% of that goes towards the substance abuse and addiction fund,” said Haren.
Haren said regulating marijuana would do more than just educational programs alone to keep pot out of kids’ hands.
“Lose license if they sell it to people under 21… don’t have that in the black market,” said Haren.
According to a study by the University of Michigan, nearly half of all high school seniors have tried weed at least once.
“Regulated programs are a much better alternative to the prohibition policy that we have currently that very clearly doesn’t work. If prohibition of marijuana worked, you wouldn’t need to allocate this kind of money to prevention efforts to address problems in a legal regulated system,” said Haren.
27 First News reached out to the governor’s office for more information on their public health campaign but have not heard back from them.
“Marijuana is not a gateway drug — that is a myth, that is not true. In fact, the opposite may be true according to some studies, that marijuana can actually be an off-ramp from opiates,” said Haren.