The Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board, as the local behavioral health authority, would like to make clear its position on the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes.
Legal and cultural norms around the use of cannabis have shifted dramatically over the last decade. Professionals working with individuals in recovery from substance use disorders or mental illness have often struggled to find a clear position around the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. This position statement is offered in the hopes of providing clarification to the community around this important topic. This statement also aims to start meaningful discussion about cannabis and its role in the community.
The Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board does not currently support the legalization of cannabis for use recreationally.
The reasons that the Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board does not currently support the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes are as follows:
- There is a lack of evidence-based and scientifically supported research around the short and long-term impact of cannabis use.
- Young people have significant risk from cannabis use. For decades cannabis use in young people had been declining but the percentage of 8th and 10th grade students who use cannabis on a daily basis increased significantly from 2017 to 2019. Cannabis use is associated with cognitive decline, impaired education or occupational attainment, and a poor quality of life.
- Increased cannabis potency has too many unknown dangers for safe recreational use. The concentration of THC in commonly cultivated marijuana plants has increased three-fold between 1995 and 2014 (from 4% to 12% respectively). THC concentrations in cannabis sold in dispensaries average between 17.7% and 23.2%. Increased potency of cannabis raises health concerns because cannabis potency has been associated with more adverse reactions, particularly cannabis-induced psychosis.
- Cannabis impairs driving. “Cannabis-impaired driving is a real public health problem, in that it results in such drivers being significantly more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.” “Aside from alcohol, cannabis is the primary drug detected in U.S. drugged driving cases and fatal motor vehicle crashes”. With rapid change to the use of Cannabis, laws governing driving drug-impaired have not kept pace. More time, more research, and more legal oversight are needed if we are going to avoid driving fatalities associated with cannabis use.
- The long-term financial cost to communities is unknown. Increased tax revenue is often cited as a positive outcome of legalization of cannabis. However, potential financial gains are difficult to estimate due to factors like increased healthcare costs associated with cannabis use, and damage to society in the form of lost productivity and substance use disorders. Looking only at the immediate financial benefits could prove disastrous in the long run. The State of Ohio is in a unique position to learn from the mistakes of other states who have preceded Ohio in legalization of recreational cannabis. Taking time to evaluate the true cost of legalization could not only save money but lives.
 Elsohly, M. A., Mehmedic, Z., Foster, S. (2016). Changes in Cannabis Potency Over the Last 2 Decades (1995-2014): Analysis of Current Data in the United States. Biological Psychiatry, 79(7), 613-619. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.004.
 Jikomes, N., & Zoorob, M. (2018). The Cannabinoid Content of Legal Cannabis in Washington State Varies Systematically Across Testing Facilities and Popular Consumer Products. Scientific reports, 8(1), 4519. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-22755-2