GOP Senate Leader Says He'll Alter Ohio Cannabis Vote, Sparks Controversy With Teen Suicide Mention

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R) warned that if the cannabis legalization ballot passes on Nov. 7, the state’s Republican-dominated senate will likely modify some of its main components.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Huffman predicted what he called a "mental health crisis" if voters legalize recreational marijuana. He added, “This initiated statute is coming right back before this body.”

Huffman said he also had reservations about provisions that allocate part of the tax revenue from legal marijuana sales to help those applying for business licenses under the social equity program, which seeks to remedy harms “resulting from the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana-related laws."

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which led the push to get Issue 2 on the ballot, said there's no preference given to people with prior cannabis-related convictions.

Huffman Brings Up Suicide, Infuriating Some Parents

In what many Ohioans found distasteful, Huffman brought up teen suicide, the second leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults in Ohio.

"If Issue 2 passes, there will be more teenagers in the state of Ohio committing suicide," he warned.

"And our reaction to that will not be, ‘Let's make marijuana illegal,' because by that time, more people will be making lots of money. It will be, ‘Maybe we should hire drug counselors, get into the schools, talk about kids not taking drugs.'"

One parent among several at a local high school soccer practice found his remarks appalling. "How dare he use a serious issue like suicide when we all know marijuana and teen suicide are in no way linked," said a woman who asked not to be named.

Robin Isenberg, executive director at the National Alliance on Mental  Illness of Greater Toledo, said the biggest risk factor for teen suicide is untreated mental health challenges. "The key there is untreated because we know that folks who are in treatment and who are on a traveling, supportive recovery journey have less of a chance of having suicidal thoughts.”

She added that coming off the COVID-19 pandemic, many teens faced profound issues of isolation and hopelessness that added to the suicide crisis, reported the Toledo Blade.

Meanwhile, a new poll from Ohio’s Baldwin Wallace University showed that 57.4% of Ohioans plan to approve Issue 2, according to results released Wednesday. This poll is consistent with USA TODAY Network / Suffolk University polling from July, which showed nearly 58% of Ohio voters are backing cannabis legalization.

Photo: Matt Huffman, Courtesy of Ohio Senate

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