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A road full of potholes


WORLD Radio - A road full of potholes

Voters in Ohio overrule a federal agency’s guidelines on marijuana by passing Issue 2

A sign against Issue 2 sits near a polling place on Election Day. Associated Press/Photo by Joshua A. Bickel

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next onThe World and Everything in It: the state of legalized marijuana.

Last week, a majority of voters in Ohio passed two ballot measures: one to place a right to abortion in the state constitution, and the other to legalize recreational marijuana.

Now, I’m old enough to remember when news of West Coast states like Oregon and California legalizing weed was a big deal, but now recreational pot is being normalized in the midwest.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: In a moment we’ll talk about how we got here with an expert. But first, what did voters have to say about Issue 2? WORLD Reporter Leah Savas brought us some perspectives from Ohio’s heartland near Columbus.

PHILLIP DIXON: I voted yes on Issue 2.

SAVAS: And why?

DIXON: Um, I mean, I just don't think that there's many harms with cannabis. So...

ASHLEY BAXTER: I voted no on that one.

SAVAS: And why?

BAXTER: You know, I just from the little bit that I understand, I just don't think I'm quite there yet to vote yes.

ROB RITTER: For medical reasons. Absolutely. I've got I've got a friend with MS that needs it for pain management. So when is prescribed by a doctor, I don't think we need to have one more avenue for anybody to go down. You know, I mean, I do consume alcohol to a certain point, but you know, I don't think we need to have one more avenue.

REICHARD: As you can hear, a variety of priorities and understanding about the issue. But what exactly are Ohioans in for?

Joining us now to talk about it is Marc Sweeney. Now the CEO of Profero Team. That’s a pharmacy consulting company in Dayton, Ohio. He previously served as the founding dean of the school of pharmacy at Cedarville University.

EICHER: Good morning, Marc.

MARC SWEENEY: Hello, how are you?

EICHER: Good, doing well. Thanks for joining us today. Well, let’s start with the harms of marijuana. What do the newest studies have to say about the effects of marijuana on recreational users?

SWEENEY: You know, so marijuana is interesting, because as you pointed out earlier, this is something that has been an ongoing conversation for years now. And even though you know, there's there's no question in the studies out there, but what we do know is that it does have a mind altering effect, it can induce or exacerbate anxiety, it can induce or exacerbate depression. So we do have some concerns, just from a sheer side effect or impact on our mental health well being.

EICHER: You know, I've heard the argument that alcohol is more troublesome than marijuana that it's already legal for adults 21 and older. Do you agree or disagree with the comparison of those two?

SWEENEY: I know that that is a common comparison, I hear that often. And really, the bottom line is for individual people, some people are more prone to the side effects. And essentially the downfall to utilizing alcohol and others are more prone to the downside of marijuana. If I were just to kind of share a broader perspective, there are a lot of drug interactions that can occur with with marijuana. And whether you're using it medicinally or recreationally, if you're utilizing this haphazardly with no medical advice or guidance, what risk are you putting yourself in? And I'll give you an example. So if you're utilizing marijuana, and you happen to have an infection, and you're using a common drug called ketoconazole, if you use ketoconazole with marijuana, it actually will double the levels of marijuana. And I wonder how many people even think about these things. Or there's cases where if you're utilizing marijuana, you can actually cause changes in your levels in some of your cholesterol medications, and some of your seizure medications. So that makes me very concerned that we are now opening up the floodgates for more people to use, but without any type of guidance, what are what are some of those effects going to be on our society? And think about that if you're impacting a seizure medication, you're utilizing recreational marijuana, you're on a seizure medication, and now you're driving down the road. And without any knowledge, they could be at higher risk, those individuals have a higher risk for seizures. And there's been no guidance at all on that potential danger or risk. Those are some of the things I'm very concerned about.

REICHARD: Marc, do you think opioids and fentanyl have drawn attention away from the dangers of marijuana? More broadly, what’s the bigger picture of how we got to rec mar legalized in Ohio?

SWEENEY: So certainly the opioid crisis and, you know, Ohio has been somewhat the epicenter of that crisis, and it has drawn a lot of attention. It's drawn a lot of resources. And we've focused in on that and I'll be honest, we actually that focus and attention has actually started to make a difference. It's actually improved the situation in Ohio, which is really, really good to see. But I do agree that focusing on one problem and basically not having our focus on another potential growing area is of concern.

But you know, when we think about putting this type of decision to the voters, you know, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the DEA of the United States has classified marijuana as essentially a schedule one substance, meaning that it has, you know, very restricted use in our country. But what I find interesting is, is that when the voters disagree with essentially a decision by a federal agency on how it categorizes a drug, we're able to actually overturn that decision in an election, despite any type of of data, any type of information that's currently available at the federal level, or even at the state level, for that matter. But we've done that at the state level. So I do get concerns that we are we setting precedent here, where we if we don't like the decision of a federal agency on how a drug is classified, we can go around that agency and vote it into utilization. That to me is a concern. And what does that look like for future types of situations where we want to vote drug approvals into the public for utilization?

EICHER: Good information, really appreciate that. Marc Sweeney is Chief Executive Officer of Profero Team, that's a pharmacy consulting company in Dayton, Ohio. He is also the founding dean of Cedarville University School of Pharmacy. Marc, great to talk with you, thanks so much.

SWEENEY: Thank you.

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