Local leaders split in support of legalizing marijuana

Staff report


Local leaders are split in their support of legalizing marijuana.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, announced his support for legalizing marijuana Friday.

Ryan is a co-sponsor of H.R. 4815, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2018 that would remove marijuana from Schedule 1 and eliminate criminal penalties for its possession and use.

“We have ignored the social and economic toll of our marijuana laws for too long,” Ryan said in a statement. “I believe no person should be sentenced to a lifetime of hardship because of a marijuana arrest. It is morally wrong, economically nonsensical and an unnecessary strain on our already strained law-enforcement officials.

“Even more unjust is that the burden of these low-level drug charges fall on minority communities, hindering their God-given right to thrive and build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

“I am proud to stand on the side of justice by co-sponsoring legislation to begin righting the wrongs of decades of misinformed drug policy and make marijuana legal in all 50 states,” his statement said.

H.R. 4815 also prohibits and reduces certain federal funds for a state without a statute legalizing marijuana if the Bureau of Justice Assistance determines that such a state has a disproportionate arrest rate or disproportionate incarceration rate for marijuana offenses.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, said: “I don’t support the legalization of marijuana. Tim and I work together on many issues where we agree to improve the quality of life for the people of the Mahoning Valley, but legalizing marijuana is not going to be one of them.”

David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, said the issue has reached a tipping point in the country.

“In one fashion or another, 27 states have somewhat legalized marijuana,” he said. “People’s lives being wrecked over the [current] law [criminalizing marijuana]. ... People have indicated they don’t want this criminalized anymore. Much like Prohibition, when Prohibition was repealed, we have gotten to that place as far as the state is concerned.”

Todd Werth, Boardman police chief, said he is not in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.

He suggests looking at other communities that have legalized marijuana and then making an informed decision based on what has happened within them.

“A lot of research points to an adverse impact” of legalization, he said.

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