Advocates say budding careers will grow if Ohio legalizes marijuana this November

Natasha Hart at the Cleveland School of Cannabis
Posted at 6:37 PM, Aug 17, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With recreational marijuana on the ballot in November, the cannabis industry is gearing up for a potential job boom, workforce development and sales.

A college located in Independence, Ohio, is like most others: focusing on preparing its students for the workforce by teaching practical skills they would learn in the field. But it's not a regular university.

"We train citizens of Ohio and beyond to become part of the workforce within the cannabis industry," Tyrone Russell, president of the Cleveland School of Cannabis, said.

Russell helps introduce students like Natasha Hart to a budding career in marijuana — classes on growing, cooking and selling.

This coming election gives hope to the pair.

"We are feeling very grateful now, knowing that it will be on the ballot in November and possibly legal next year for adult use," Hart said. "We just have so many more possibilities."

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol put forward a ballot proposal, which lets voters choose if Ohio should legalize marijuana for adults 21 and up. If passed, Ohioans would also be able to grow up to six plants. In addition, this proposal would also impose a 10% tax at the point of sale for each transaction, which activists say would raise $350 to $400 million in new tax revenue annually.

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But some opponents say legalizing marijuana will just make it more accessible to criminals.

"You're just inviting in a criminal element that's gonna wind up selling more drugs and doing more business than the legal industry is," Lou Tobin, with the Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said.

A new coalition called Protect Ohio Workers and Families is trying to stop the initiated statute from passing. Tobin joined the group to warn about the dangers of legalization.

"if you make this more widely available, it's going to get into the wrong hands, including into the hands of young children, teenagers," he added.

He said it could increase violence in communities or crimes like driving while high.

"Those are things that I think Ohioans are going to have to consider as they consider whether to vote on this — the impact that it's gonna have on the safety of their friends and families," Tobin said.

Data is mixed when comparing marijuana legalization and crime statistics. In a study by government agencies National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics, their team advised that there are "a number of challenges associated with the availability and usefulness of marijuana-related data."

The data should be "interpreted with caution," the authors said.

Another study done by research scientists from Stanford University found that there is a 20% increased risk of self-harm injuries for males under the age of 40. There was no association between legalization and self-harm or assault for any other age and sex group, according to the study.

"When you really look at some of those underlying issues that feed into addiction or violence, it's beyond the drug that people are using," Russell responded.

Ohio's marijuana industry has been raking in more sales every year since medical use was legalized, which is also increasing interest in the Cleveland School of Cannabis.

Last year, the school received more than 500 applications, according to Russell. Due to financial constraints, since his workforce development program has yet to receive state funding, he could only accept about 200.

"It is our commitment to Ohio to make sure folks are educated and prepared to take advantage of the work and the opportunities that are hitting the market," he said.

Russell said he is also creating a program that will give out $1 million in scholarships over the next two years to advance the industry.

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