Breaking Down the Bud: Ohio gears up for legal weed, but addiction experts sound alarm

Published: Dec. 5, 2023 at 6:07 PM EST

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – In just two days on Dec. 7, recreational marijuana use will become legal in Ohio.

While many residents celebrate this milestone, addiction experts are urging caution, highlighting the potential for increased substance abuse and the need for robust addiction services. Issue 2, the ballot measure that legalized recreational weed, also allocated 25% of marijuana tax revenue to fund addiction treatment and prevention programs.

This move acknowledges the potential downside of increased access, but some experts worry it may not be enough.

Fran Gerbig, Executive Director of Prevention Action Alliance, warns that today’s marijuana is far more potent than the flower of the 60s and 70s, with THC levels reaching 85-90%.

This raises concerns about the risk of dependence and addiction, especially among young people.

Gerbig emphasizes that Ohio already faces a significant addiction crisis, and legal weed could exacerbate it.

“The state has been battling the opioid epidemic for over a decade,” she says.

Issue 2 attempts to mitigate these concerns by mandating a Partnership between the Division of Cannabis Control and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to educate and treat individuals with addiction.

It also calls for the Creation of a 24/7 toll-free hotline for addiction resources.

And requires licensed retailers to provide information about addiction resources and train employees on the topic.

Despite these measures, Scott Osiecki, CEO of the Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, echoes Gerbig’s concerns.

He highlights the growing nonchalant attitude towards marijuana use, potentially masking the seriousness of addiction.

Osiecki clarifies the difference between recreational use and abuse: “Just like with alcohol, not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted. But marijuana dependence can occur when the brain adapts to the substance, potentially leading to full-blown addiction.”

Addiction experts emphasize the potential consequences of marijuana dependence, including:

  • Cognitive decline and memory problems
  • Increased risk of mental health issues
  • Respiratory problems

As Ohio embarks on this new chapter, the need for vigilance and education is paramount.

While responsible adults may enjoy the newfound freedom, it’s crucial to remember that for some, marijuana use can spiral into a serious health concern.

Those dealing with addiction can find resources by calling 1-800-662-4357 or (216) 623-6888.



Note from PAA: For resources on marijuana misuse prevention, visit our resource page here.

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Prevention Action Alliance is a certified prevention agency leading the way in promoting healthy lives through the prevention of substance misuse and fostering mental health wellness for 30 years. PAA is nationally recognized for building networks that empower communities to create safe and healthy environments.

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Columbus, Ohio 43229

Mailing Address
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Columbus, OH 43234

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