On the colder days during the winter months, we have a group of barn cats that crowd up near the front door of our house, hoping to sneak in to enjoy the warmer temperatures at the next opportunity. In the barn they have proven repeatedly to be valuable assets. In the house and under foot, however, they are irksome beasts.
Despite the fact that they have access to a cozy barn with a well-stocked haymow perfect for snuggling in on a cold winter afternoon, one too many trips into the house as kittens courtesy of our children has provided ample experience and know-how concerning the logistics of infiltrating the front door. The worst two feline culprits are Sister (named by our daughter as a hopeful hint suggesting a possible family expansion a few years back) and Auto-steer (named by our son based upon his love for all things farm). These two female tiger cats prowl the front step and wait for any entrance or exit from the house by a person not paying complete attention to the task of keeping the cats out. Sometimes they can even make it in without anyone noticing.
When we do finally corral the rogue barn cat and put it back outside, the other cat is often waiting, ready to run in. It is amazing how much daily manpower at our home is dedicated to the often not-so-simple task of extricating Auto-steer and Sister the barn cats.
I thought about those cats last week as I listened to discussions at the Ohio Farm Bureau Ag Day at the Capital. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine started off the program on a snowy February morning talking about the devastation around Ohio’s rural areas from heroin use.
DeWine said that 90% of the crime in every Ohio county is somehow related to the growing drug epidemic in the state. Tremendous resources are being used currently in the state to combat this huge problem without even making a dent. Many more resources will be needed to address this problem moving forward.
The ball, though, is rolling as awareness about the heroin problems in rural and small-town Ohio is increasing. Government officials like DeWine, and organizations like the Ohio Farm Bureau (and many others) are looking for solutions to help rural Ohio address this extremely serious drug problem.
Yet, simultaneously, proponents of the legalization of marijuana in Ohio are just getting started after a defeat at the ballot last fall, hoping to follow on the heels of successful legalization efforts in other states.
“The people who want to make a lot of money from marijuana are going to keep bringing this back. Last summer I went to Colorado where they have legalized recreational marijuana. What I found out there, we don’t want in Ohio. It changed the culture. When you say it is legal for a 21-year-old, a 14-year-old now thinks it’s OK. The age of when people start using marijuana has gone down and the use of marijuana for underage users has gone up dramatically. We don’t need that in Ohio,” DeWine said. “This marijuana today is much more potent than anything we saw in the 1960s and 1970s. And, medical science has advanced and we known more about how the brain develops. Young people who regularly smoke marijuana while their brain is developing are risking a significant and irreversible 5 to 10 point loss in IQ, which is just stunning.”
Some proponents, however, point to the already widespread use of marijuana and suggest that legalizing it and taxing it could allow for many positives in society.
“When marijuana is commercialized, it is being driven by promotion and profits. And you have to promote it to people who are underage or dependent upon it for it to make money commercially. When that happens it ends up being a cost to society,” said Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance, who spoke at OFBF‘s event last week. “In Colorado they had estimated $107 million in tax revenue with legalization, but they only made $63 million. And now they are seeing more costs than they anticipated. Colorado teachers are saying that marijuana is the now the No. 1 problem in schools. They refer to students as being ‘dazed and confused.’ We have found with things like alcohol, for every dollar of taxes we take in we spend more than that in terms of addressing the societal problems that result. The tax benefits are a myth.”
Other costs to the legalization of marijuana include funding for addiction and education for prevention. As it is, there is already a significant shortage of treatment centers around the state of Ohio. In addition, there are a myriad of potential costs resulting for businesses (how do employers handle marijuana use by employees?), legal impairment standards and regulations, and the need for increased medical research to better understand the potential issues, Seidel said.
There are also significant concerns about the issue returning to the ballot as a constitutional amendment.
“Ballot initiatives are expensive and even one word cannot be changed without a public process,” Seidel said. “Legislation is never done right the first time. It always needs to be tweaked. If it wins at the ballot, it can live forever and you can be stuck with a mess.”
So, just as awareness and concern about Ohio’s heroin problem is really starting to ramp up, we can expect to see more debate about the legalization of marijuana. It is an interesting time we live in and these two issues will no doubt find their way into your home community in the future. There are many people with many opinions on these two important drug issues facing Ohio. But if you ask me, it seems an awful lot like we are trying to figure out how to get one barn cat out of the house, and we really need to be on guard because there is another one waiting right outside the door to get in.