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State Issue 3 bad for children, families

State Issue 3 bad for children, families

Public Children Services Association of Ohio opposes State Issue 3, the marijuana monopoly amendment on the November 3, 2015, ballot.

PCSAO’s membership, made up of county children services agencies, concluded that this issue, if passed, would detrimentally affect the state’s child protection system as well as the health, safety and wellbeing of children and families. That said, PCSAO notes that use of controlled and illicit substances (including alcohol and drugs) by parents and caregivers does not in and of itself constitute a basis for child abuse or neglect; rather, only when use of those substances endangers a child’s safety is child protection involvement warranted.

PCSAO’s opposition is based on its mission as an organization committed to safe children and stable families, and on evidence from other states indicating harm to children brought on by marijuana:

  • Marijuana-related traffic deaths spiked 32 percent from 2013 to 2014, the year recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado.
  • Marijuana-related emergency room visits went up 29 percent; hospitalizations increased by 38 percent. Accidental exposure to marijuana products in children in the state increased in the last few years, based on the rate of emergency department visits and admissions at Children’s Colorado.
  • Instead of legalization driving out illegal drug activity, the state saw an increase in marijuana trafficking: average annual interdiction seizures of marijuana in Colorado increased by 34 percent.

Ohio is already dealing with high infant mortality rates – some of the highest in the country – and smoking marijuana during pregnancy has been shown to decrease birth weight, most likely due to the effects of carbon monoxide on the developing fetus.

Because of surreptitious marketing to children and the likelihood under the proposed amendment that marijuana will be available in candy form, PCSAO believes that marijuana use among adolescents will increase dramatically. Adolescence is a critical period of brain development, and marijuana use has profound effects on brain development. Chronic use impairs short-term memory, attention, executive function, decision-making, learning, and in vulnerable individuals can produce psychosis, including schizophrenia. Recent studies report that adults who start smoking pot before age 18 are significantly more likely to have cognitive problems (including a drop in IQ), anxiety and psychotic disorders, and testicular cancer.

Finally, as a public policy advocacy organization, PCSAO believes strongly in the state’s constitution as a document of general principles, and opposes the insertion of such language into the constitution, when it should instead be debated as statute for the Ohio Revised Code.

PCSAO is pleased to join our colleagues including the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio, the Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition, the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, The Ohio Council of Behavioral Healthcare Providers, and many others in opposing State Issue 3.