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DeWine says he opposes legalizing marijuana

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

SANDUSKY — If Ohio legalizes marijuana this year, it will do so over the objections of Gov. Mike DeWine.

The governor met Tuesday by Zoom with editorial board members and reporters for Ogden News and repeated his previously announced opposition to legalizing marijuana.

Given the problems caused by other substances, such as driving under the influence, “I think it’s ridiculous to add an additional problem,” DeWine said.

The governor said he is willing to consider a proposal in the Ohio General Assembly that would loosen the rules for medical marijuana.

Marijuana possession and use by adults has been legalized in 18 states and in the District of Columbia, including in Michigan.

Other states, including Ohio, allow medical marijuana under rules that vary widely. Ohio’s rules are relatively strict, but Oklahoma’s medical marijuana law is so liberal it comes close to full legalization.

Two bills have been submitted in the Ohio House to legalize marijuana, one authored by Republicans and the other by Democrats.

In addition, a legalization group called the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has submitted a petition signed by voters for a legalization process that potentially could take two steps.

The group is seeking to require the Ohio General Assembly to consider its legalization proposal. If lawmakers reject it, the group can submit a second petition to put its plan on the November general election ballot.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office initially ruled that not enough valid signatures had been submitted. On Thursday, however, the group submitted an additional 29,918 signatures. If at least 13,062 are validated, the group’s proposal can move forward.

“We feel confident that we will meet the signature requirements and look forward to the legislature taking up an issue that a majority of Ohioans support this year,” said Tom Haren, a spokesman for the coalition. “We encourage the public to visit our website, JustLikeAlcohol.com, to learn more about the proposed statute.”

DeWine said he has two objections to legalizing marijuana, based on research he did when he went to Colorado, one of the first states to legalize marijuana.

One, it would result in more children being taken to emergency rooms after the kids have eaten gummy candies infused with marijuana, DeWine said.

Second, it seems likely there would be more driving under the influence automobile accidents.

“They are going to be coming at you. You are going to have more accidents, you are going to have more people killed,” he said.

DeWine said he would not sign a bill to legalize marijuana.

If the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill to legalize marijuana, DeWine apparently would have three choices: To sign it into law, to allow it to become law without his signature or to veto it.

Haren said he remains optimistic his group’s proposal could pass the Ohio General Assembly.

Haren said he hasn’t looked at the data for his marijuana legalization impacted Colorado but said that in general, legalization in U.S. states has not resulted in a rise in use by youths.

There isn’t a single case of an overdose of too much marijuana resulting in a death, Haren said.

“In that regard, marijuana is safer than a lot of other legal substances like alcohol,” Haren said. “The public knows legalizing marijuana for all adults is good policy.”

The governor said he might be willing to support expansion of medical marijuana.

Under current law, medical marijuana in Ohio only is available for a specific list of medical conditions. A bill being considered by the Ohio General Assembly, which has passed the Ohio Senate and now is before the Ohio House, would allow doctors to recommend marijuana for any medical problem.

DeWine said a “case certainly could be made” that if a doctor and patient believes marijuana would help a medical ailment, it ought to be allowed under a regulated system.

“We can probably work out something in regard to some expansion of medical marijuana,” he said.

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