Corinne LaMarc-Gasper, Guest columnist
This column appeared in the Columbus Dispatch last week.
I received the worst news a parent can get nine years ago: my 22-year-old daughter had been killed in a car crash.
Even more heartbreaking was the fact that my daughter’s death could have been avoided if the other driver hadn’t been high on marijuana.
With stories like mine becoming tragically more common, we must reassess and slow the rapid expansion of the marijuana industry.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted to include the deceptively named SAFE Banking Act in the National Defense Authorization Act.
This bill would permit pot companies to accept significant investments from corporations that only have one concern: profit. These corporations, who growingly consist of tobacco and alcohol companies, care nothing about the victims of marijuana-impaired driving like my daughter.
In fact, a high return on investment for these corporations depends on the misuse of this drug, even when it leads to tragedy.
Additionally, despite myriad reports of product contamination and illegitimate financial practices within marijuana dispensaries, SAFE Banking is now making its way to the Senate.
There may be one member, though, who can prevent the SAFE Banking Act from becoming law, and that’s Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Senator Brown can make a difference
Brown, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, understands that real progress in marijuana policy reform means fighting for social justice, not lining the pockets of venture capitalists. He recently said that reform on this front is “not just taking care of the banking industry and that industry, it’s making sure that we do sentencing reform at the same time or it’s not going to happen without it.”
Going further, in 2015 Brown expressed that he had serious concerns with expanding marijuana legalization here in Ohio saying, “it’s a step that we should take with great caution.” Given my experience, I couldn’t agree further
As a mom, it’s hard for me to understand why some lawmakers want to spur rapid and unlimited growth in this industry without considering its dire consequences. Pot shops advertise colorful marijuana-infused gummies that are attractive to kids.
Nationwide, dispensaries market marijuana vapes that contain high potency THC. In fact, the average levels of THC today compared to 1995 is the same as comparing hard liquor to a light beer. And what are the results? Addicted teenagers, contaminated products and high drivers who crash and kill people like my daughter.
No matter how much I want to, I can’t bring my daughter back. That doesn’t mean that other lives can’t be saved. The SAFE Banking Act will only serve to bolster an industry that aims to recruit new, heavy users to drive their bottom line. It is without a doubt that some of those users will get behind the wheel while high. Traffic deaths involving a driver high on marijuana more than doubled from 2013 to 2018 in Colorado, and the American Automobile Association (AAA) found similar increases in Washington state.
SAFE Banking Act
SAFE Banking will do nothing to provide racial, economic or criminal justice to the communities that have been impacted the most by the war on drugs.
If justice was the main priority of this industry, they would not be lobbying hard to pass a banking bill before any equity-based laws. This bill makes the rich richer at the expense of minority communities and of those who are affected by the consequences of unsafe marijuana use, like my daughter.
I sincerely hope Brown uses his power as the Banking Committee chairman to prevent the SAFE Banking Act from advancing. Keep my daughter in mind when considering this issue.
If SAFE Banking is passed, families like mine will only experience more tragedy.
Parents Opposed to Pot has taken on as a project Corinne’s website devoted to informing of the dangers of driving high, jennifersmessengers.com .