The Ugly Truth About Proposition 126

Proposition 126 is not a tax cut. It is not pro-business. It is not good for Arizona.

Arizonans will have the choice Nov. 6 on whether to pass Prop 126, a ballot measure to amend the state constitution to permanently exempt the service industry from sales taxes. What may sound like a generous proposal to cut taxes is, in reality, an unfair handout to privilege some businesses over others.

  • Prop 126 benefits the service industry while narrowing the tax base, making it more likely that, when push comes to shove, marginal income-tax rates will be raised on everyday Arizonans. Indeed, if the state ever needed to raise revenue, it would be cut off from a significant sector of the economy, forcing it to turn to raising much higher taxes on everyone else.

After all, Prop 126 is not a tax cut. It is a roadblock to keeping tax rates low across the board. It would hamstring our state’s lawmakers, making it much more difficult for them to craft flexible, uniform and fair tax policy.

  • What’s more, Prop 126 is not “pro-business” — it is pro-some businesses, and not others. There are several other ways Arizona could make it easier for businesses to thrive. Doling out special benefits to some while sticking others with the bill is unfair. It’s also bad policy.

While Prop 126 would affect all 7 million-plus Arizonans, it would help only some. During a time when our state’s economy is dynamic and rapidly growing, we need a tax policy flexible enough to keep our taxes low and treat Arizonans fairly.

We won’t get that with Prop 126. On Nov. 6, Arizonans should send this amendment packing.

Clean Election System Abuse Continues as Candidates Funnel More Taxpayer Money to the Democrat Party

By Free Enterprise Club

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission claims they care about keeping special interests out of the political process by providing candidates with taxpayer funds to run for office.

But as was discovered in 2016 election cycle, politicians and political operatives know how to cheat the system and the unaccountable Clean Elections Commission just doesn’t seem to care.

An examination of campaign finance reports filed by publicly funded Clean Election Candidates in 2018 show over $100,000 being funneled to the state, county and local political parties, as well as to other political operations such as the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC).

As was the case in prior elections, the democratic candidates running in the least competitive legislative districts are the biggest contributors to these electioneering efforts.

One of the worst offenders is candidate Lynsey Robinson from conservative legislative district 12 in the East Valley.  She gave a staggering $22,590 to the Democratic Party Operations, which is over 50 percent of the total amount she receives from Clean Elections!  If her intention was to win her race, sending over half her money to the Party seems like a poor strategy to do so.

Other giveaways to political groups include:

$21,442 from Jo Craycraft, candidate for Senate in LD 1
$18,980 from Hazel Chandler, candidate for House in LD 20
$18,500 from Chris Gilfillan, candidate for House in LD 20
$14,170 from Mark Manoil, candidate for State Treasurer
$12,400 from Kiana Sears, candidate for the Corporation Commission
$9,520 from Kathy Hoffman, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Interestingly enough, the largest benefactor of these public funds was the ADLCC, a Political Action Committee chaired by legislative democrats to elect democrats around the state of Arizona.  Traditionally, victory PACs such as this provide money and support tocandidates—they don’t receive money from them. This is because committees such as this fundraise for the express purpose of playing in election races.  However, they do so independently of any candidate because it is against the law for organizations and PACs to coordinate with candidates on their election activities.

That makes the expenditure to the ADLCC even more suspicious.  Either a candidate is giving them money to use in other more competitive races (which is wrong and must be stopped), or they are giving them money to provide services to their campaign (which is likely illegal.)  Either way, the ADLCC’s taxpayer gravy train is an offensive abuse of the system and should be stopped immediately.

The unaccountable Clean Elections Commission has made it clear that they don’t care how our money is wasted, which is why voters must vote YES on Proposition 306.  Prop 306 would prohibit candidates from funneling taxpayer funds to political parties and political special interest groups.   If there was any question that the exploitation of the system would continue and proliferate – this year’s election season proves otherwise.

Voters should put an end to it by Voting Yes on Prop 306.

Tempe’s Prop 404 – What You Need To Know

Tempe Cash

Tempe’s Prop 404 isn’t an increase by $30,000,000! It’s actually an increase by $156,591,369!

Arizona Auditor General Report dated December 5, 2017.

“Permanent Base Adjustment Summary Analysis:

Pursuant to the Arizona State Constitution, the City of Tempe (City) seeks voter approval to permanently adjust the expenditure base of the City as determined by the Economic Estimates Commission. If approved by the voters, the City’s base expenditure limitation will be increased by $30,000,000, adjusted each future year for population and inflation growth since 1979-80.

With voter approval, in 2018-19, the City’s expenditure limitation will increase by $156,591,369, from $342,305,491 to $498,896,860. The City will utilize the additional expenditure authority for any local budgetary purposes including public safety (police and fire/medical rescue) expenditures; community services, parks and youth programs; community development projects; transit operations and maintenance; and pay-as-you-go capital
financing.

If approved, the additional authorized expenditures will be funded from state and local sources.”
Just one more example of the progressive socialist Tempe City Council misleading us so they can continue to increase our outrageous taxes and fees!

About the bill:

Proposition 404: Permanent base expenditure adjustment

A strong economy has grown Tempe’s revenues over the last several years, but a state-imposed ceiling puts a cap on the amount municipalities can spend on their services, facilities and amenities. For the third time since the Arizona Legislature put the ceiling in place in 1980, Tempe must ask voters to raise the limit so the city can spend the revenue it brings in. Base adjustments do not raise sales or property tax rates. All annual expenditures still go through a public process and City Council approval.

The General/Special Election is March 13. This is the first Tempe election that will be Ballot by Mail, which means that every registered voter will get a ballot in the mail. Ballots will be mailed Feb. 14. Voters who need a replacement ballot can request one through the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office until March 5; after March 5, replacement ballots are available at either of the two ballot centers in Tempe or at the Recorder’s Office. Voters can also drop off their voted ballots or vote at a ballot center. Ballots must be received by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office or dropped off at a ballot center by 7 p.m. March 13. Maricopa County recommends that ballots be placed in the mail on or before March 7. Additional information is at http://www.tempe.gov/city- hall/city-clerk-s-office/ election-information/ballot- by-mail-elections

Any information about the election, from voter registration to finding the results, can be found at http://www.tempe.gov/city- hall/city-clerk-s-office/ election-information or by calling 480-350-4311.

By Tempe Republican Women

Secretary of State Completes Preliminary Review of Referendum Petitions

Michele Reagan

On August 8, 2017, Save Our Schools Arizona filed an estimated 9,078 petition sheets containing 111,540 signatures in support of R-02-2018.

The Secretary of State’s Office has completed its preliminary review of referendum petitions in accordance with Arizona law, and has determined that the committee filed 9,291 petition sheets.  Of these, 8,950 petition sheets containing 108,224 signatures remained eligible for random sampling and County Recorder review.

A 5% random sample of these signatures has been sent to the County Recorders for signature verification under Arizona law.  In order for the measure to qualify for the 2018 General Election ballot, the County Recorders must collectively validate at least 3,767 signatures (or 69.6%) from the random sample.

The deadline for County Recorder review is September 11, 2017.

Read more about Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan here.

Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Legislation Restoring Integrity to Initiative Process

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Representative Vince Leach (R-11) today applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing legislation (HB 2404) that he’s introduced to restore integrity to Arizona’s initiative process.

HB 2404 would prohibit the payment of petition circulators per signature and modify the number of days from five calendar days to ten business days within which a challenge to the registration of circulators can occur.

“By removing the incentive for fraud, HB 2404 keeps the initiative process intact as a legislative tool for Arizonans yet restores some badly needed integrity to the system,” said Representative Leach.  “I thank my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee for their support and look forward to consideration of the bill by the full Senate.”

Former Governor Janet Napolitano first advocated for the reform in 2009, using her State of the State address to ask the legislature to “crack down on signature fraud” by prohibiting the payment of petition circulators per signature.

Senator Sylvia Allen on National Popular Vote

Senator Sylvia Allen

Senator Sylvia Allen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

I am getting a lot of email about the National Popular vote asking me to change the way the electoral college works in our state.  How the Electoral votes are appropriated is only one of two of the powers the state Legislators have been given in the US Constitution.  The other is Article V which allows the states to propose amendments to the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote debate is picking up steam since Trump does not have a majority of the total national vote when adding up all votes cast in each state.  Some of the argument is that voters feel their vote does not count and that if your state is not part of the battleground states you are at a disadvantage.  One email said, “I’m tired of hearing that Ohio and Florida are the only states that matter in presidential elections.  What about Arizona?  Our votes should count too…”

I took a very hard look at this issue last session.  I read the National Popular Vote manual and had many discussions with legislators and my constituents.  Here is how I reasoned it out in my mind from the discussions that were held last year, from what I studied and read, and from my understanding of our government.

This national government was created by the states.  Sovereignty is held by the states.  The way to look at the Electoral College is that it is the States electing the president by the majority vote of the people who live in each state.  As in every election cycle, the President is elected by a majority of each state’s electoral votes, which means the majority vote cast by the people in their respective states elected the President by their electoral votes going for that candidate.  When you think about it, this is the way we preserve Federalism.  Looking at the map in any election you will see that the majority of the states, by the majority vote of their citizens, did elect the President.  Arizona did elect the president by the majority vote of our citizens, which means Arizona does count.

A true popular vote will only mean that highly populated states would prevail and the smaller states would not have a voice in the election which would mean that the citizens in those states would be at a disadvantage.

This nation was founded as a Republic using democratic processes to elect our leaders, but we are not a true Democracy.  We are a nation ruled by law the federal and state constitutions. Educating our citizens on the founding principles is so important, as our Founders said, that without it we will not remain free.

Senator Sylvia Tenney Allen serves as President Pro Tempore in the Arizona State Senate. She is a native Arizonan representing Arizona’s 5th Legislative District.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club: The Harmful Effects of Prop 206 Begin to Sink In

Arizona Free Enterprise Club

It has only been a month and the recently approved minimum wage initiative, Proposition 206, is already inflicting permanent damage on Arizona’s Economy, hardworking taxpayers and our most vulnerable and needy residents.

Similar to previous proposals, Prop 206 was sold on the idea that Arizona could raise its minimum wage to $12 an hour (adjusted for inflation every year thereafter) and require employers offer mandated paid sick leave to employees without any negative repercussions.  Reading the fine print of Prop 206 exposed this fraudulent claim; as the funders of the initiative (California Unions) exempted collective bargaining agreements from critical components of the initiative.  If this was so good, why exempt themselves from it?

Now the debilitating impacts of Prop 206 are being felt, and they are far more widespread and catastrophic than even the opponents of the initiative realized.  While it wasn’t a secret that Arizona businesses would face hard choices in order to comply with the wage hike, some of the worst hit organizations will be those that serve the neediest and most vulnerable populations in our state.  Currently in-home care services, many of which aid fragile and feeble seniors, range from $20-$24 an hour.   These services will go up;pricing out many of these seniors on fixed-incomes from receiving the care they desperately need or force more individuals onto state welfare rolls.

The developmentally disabled in our community will also be devastated by Proposition 206.  According to the President and CEO of the Centers for Habilitation and member of the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities, some providers will be forced to close operations as soon as January 1, 2017.

Some of these providers have contracts with the State of Arizona that set the reimbursement rates.  This means the state will be forced to allocate more taxpayer money to cover the higher costs.  If the state doesn’t cough up more tax dollars to address these needs, thousands of developmentally disabled in Arizona will be left without vital care.

It only gets worse from here.

Many subdivisions of the state such as school districts will also be deeply impacted by the voter mandate.  Positions such as cross walk guards cafeteria workers and bus drivers, many of which are part time positions, represent a significant aggregate cost to schools; costs which were neither anticipated nor planned for by districts or the state.

For Chandler Unified School District, Prop 206’s passage represents a $1.1 million hit to their budget.  Agua Fria Union High School District in the West Valley, $123,500.  Peoria Unified District – $1.1 million by 2020.  And Sahuarita District in southern Arizona $907,576.   These are tremendous costs which will necessitate the diversion of other resources from teachers and students or require more monies from taxpayers.

And although the law does not apply to state or federal agencies, many government departments will still be on the hook.  The State of Arizona has expenditure obligations for school districts as well as private contracts through AHCCCS (Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment Center System).  But the legislature has already passed a budget for 2017.  These additional costs were not included in the state’s budget.

Many voters that supported Prop 206 were not aware of the harmful effects this initiative would cause. Yet unlike bills proposed and passed at the legislature, there was no independent review, hearings, or public comment process of the initiative language to inform voters of these inevitable issues.

Now, even if voters wanted these issues fixed, Prop 206 can’t be modified because Arizona initiatives are bound by the strictest voter protection law in the country.  Once a measure is passed at the ballot, it can’t be changed unless it is sent back to the voters, and that can’t happen for two years.

As the saying goes, “elections have consequences.”  We suspect that the consequences of Prop 206, however, are not what Arizona voters signed up for.

Prop 205 Warning! Marijuana Edibles Pose Danger to Your Children

Last week, a spokesperson for Yes on Prop 205 appeared on Prescott’s KYCA radio to propagate the myth that legalizing recreational marijuana will make our schools better and our communities safer. When confronted with the question of why their campaign signs fail to mention marijuana, he could not – or would not – answer the question. Listen here.

While it may be the pro-pot campaign’s purview to manipulate Arizonans, we believe voters should have as much information as possible when considering a policy with so many extreme and irreversible societal and public safety ramifications.

In that regard, No on Prop 205 has released new campaign signs to highlight the dangers posed by legalizing marijuana – specifically, edible forms of marijuana – to Arizona children.

Placed throughout Maricopa and Pima Counties, the signs feature pictures of edible marijuana that is virtually indistinguishable from popular store-brand, drug-free candy. Next to it, the question is posed: “Would you be able to recognize marijuana? Would your children?”

NO on Prop 205

NO on Prop 205

While there is no shortage of problems with Prop 205, one of the most troubling is that it would authorize the production and sale of highly-concentrated marijuana edibles – with NO limits on potency. It would also allow these products to be blatantly advertised and even sold near preschools and youth clubs. It’s no wonder the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix soundly opposes Prop 205.

In marijuana-friendly states, accidental pot ingestion by youth has increased by more than 600 percent. It’s no wonder; if YOU can’t tell the difference between gummy bears and ganja – how will your children?

When A Lie Travels: Comparing Alcohol To Marijuana

By Seth Leibsohn

Seth LeibsohnThis November, several states will vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and the proponents of legalization have seized on a seemingly clever argument: marijuana is safer than alcohol.  The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, an effort of the Marijuana Policy Project (or MPP), has taken this argument across the country.  Their latest strategy is labeled Marijuana vs. Alcohol.  It is a very misleading, even dangerous, message, based on bad social science and sophistic public deception.

Citing out-of-date studies that go back ten years and more, even using that well-known scientific journal, Wikipedia, the MPP never references current research on the harms of today’s high potency and edible marijuana, studies that come out monthly if not more frequently.  Indeed, their Marijuana vs. Alcohol page concludes with a 1988 statement about the negligible harms of marijuana—but that is a marijuana that simply does not exist anymore, neither in mode nor potency.  Today’s marijuana is at least five times more potent, and sold in much different form.  And the science of marijuana and its effects on the brain have come some distance since 1988 as well.

So out-of-date is the science and knowledge of marijuana from thirty years ago, it would be malpractice in any other field to suggest that kind of information about a drug having any contemporary relevance at all.  One almost wonders if the MPP thinks public health professors still instruct their students on how to use microfiche to perform their research as they prepare to write their papers on 5K memory typewriters.

It is simply misleading in a public health campaign to cite dated research while at the same time ignore a larger body of current evidence that points in the opposite direction of a desired outcome.  At great potential peril to our public health, political science (in the hands of the marijuana industry) is far outrunning medical science.  But the danger is clear: with the further promotion, marketing, and use of an increasingly known dangerous substance, public health and safety will pay the price.

Consider three basic problems with the industry’s latest campaign:

I.  Comparisons of relative dangers of various drugs are simply impossible and can often lead to paradoxical conclusions.  It is impossible to compare a glass of chardonnay and its effects on various adults of various weights and tolerance levels with the inhalation or consumption of a high-potency marijuana joint or edible.  Is the joint from the 5 percent THC level or the 25 percent level?  How about a 30 mg—or stronger—gummy bear?  A glass of wine with dinner processes through the body in about an hour and has little remaining effect.  A marijuana brownie or candy can take up to 90 minutes to even begin to take effect.

Consider a consumer of a glass of wine who ate a full meal and waited an hour or more before driving and a consumer of a marijuana edible taking the wheel of a plane, train, automobile, or anything else.  The wine drinker would likely be sober, the marijuana consumer would just be getting high, and, given the dose, possibly very high at that.

True, marijuana consumption rarely causes death, but its use is not benign.  Last year, an ASU professor took a standard dose of edible marijuana, just two marijuana coffee beans. The effect?  “[E]pisodes of convulsive twitching and jerking and passing out” before the paramedics were called.  Such episodes are rare for alcohol, but they are increasingly happening with marijuana.

Beyond acute effects, the chronic impact of marijuana is also damaging.  Approximately twice the percentage of regular marijuana users will experience Marijuana Use Disorder than will alcohol users experience Alcohol Use Disorder—both disorders categorized by the Diagnostic Statistics Manual (DSM).[1]   Marijuana is also the number one substance of abuse for teens admitted to treatment, far higher than the percentage who present with alcohol problems.  In fact, the most recent data out of Colorado shows 20 percent of teens admitted for treatment have marijuana listed as their primary substance of abuse compared to less than one percent for alcohol.

Still, the Campaign persists in its deceptions—as if they have not even read their own literature.  One online marketing tool it recently deployed was the “Consume Responsibly” campaign.  Delve into that site and you will find this warning: “[Smoked marijuana] varies from person to person, you should wait at least three to four hours before driving a vehicle.”  And: “Edible marijuana products and some other infused products remain in your system several hours longer, so you should not operate a vehicle for the rest of the day after consuming them.”  Who has ever been told that they should not operate a vehicle for four hours, much less for the rest of the day, if they had a glass of wine or beer?  Safer than alcohol?  This is not even true according to the MPP’s own advice.

Beyond unscientific dose and effect comparisons, there is a growing list of problems where marijuana use does, indeed, appear to be more harmful than alcohol.  According to Carnegie Mellon’s Jonathan Caulkins: “Marijuana is significantly more likely to interfere with life functioning” than alcohol and “it is moderately more likely to create challenges of self-control and to be associated with social and mental health problems.”

Additionally, a recent study out of UC Davis revealed that marijuana dependence was more strongly linked to financial difficulties than alcohol dependence and had the same impacts on downward mobility, antisocial behavior in the workplace, and relationship conflict as alcohol.

II.  The marijuana industry pushes and promotes the use of a smoked or vaped substance, but never compares marijuana to tobacco.  Indeed, the two substances have much more in common than marijuana and alcohol, especially with regard to the products themselves and the method of consumption (though we are also seeing increasing sales of child-attractive marijuana candies).  But why is the comparison never made?  The answer lies in the clear impossibility.

Consider: Almost every claim about marijuana’s harms in relation to alcohol has to do with the deaths associated with alcohol.  But, hundreds of thousands more people die from tobacco than alcohol.  Based on their measures of mortality, which is safer: alcohol or tobacco?  Can one safely drink and drive?  No.  Can one smoke as many cigarettes as one wants while driving?  Of course. So, what’s the more dangerous substance?  Mortality does not answer that question.

Alcohol consumption can create acute problems, while tobacco consumption can create chronic problems.  And those chronic problems particularly affect organs like the lungs, throat, and heart.  But what of the chronic impact on the brain?  That’s the marijuana risk, and, seemingly, society is being told that brains are less important than lungs.  Nobody can seriously believe that, which is why these comparisons simply fail scrutiny.

This illustrates but one of the problems in comparing dangerous substances. As Professor Caulkins recently wrote:

“The real trouble is not that marijuana is more or less dangerous than alcohol; the problem is that they are altogether different…. The country is not considering whether to switch the legal statuses of alcohol and marijuana. Unfortunately, our society does not get to choose either to have alcohol’s dangers or to have marijuana’s dangers. Rather, it gets to have alcohol’s dangers…and also marijuana’s dangers.

Further, marijuana problems are associated with alcohol problems.  New research out of Columbia University reveals that marijuana users are five times more likely to have an alcohol abuse disorder. Society doesn’t just switch alcohol for marijuana—too often, one ends up with use of both, compounding both problems.

The larger point for voters to understand:  The marijuana legalization movement is not trying to ban or end alcohol sales or consumption; rather, it wants to add marijuana to the dangerous substances already available, including alcohol.  This is not about marijuana or alcohol, after all.  It’s about marijuana and alcohol.

We can see this effect in states like Colorado, with headlines such as “Alcohol sales get higher after weed legalization.”  And, according to the most recent federal data[2], alcohol use by teens, as well as adults, has increased in Colorado since 2012 (the year of legalization). If alcohol is the problem for the MPP, in their model state–Colorado–alcohol consumption has increased with marijuana legalization.  Legalizing marijuana will, in the end, only make alcohol problems worse.

III.  The legalization movement regularly cites to one study in the Journal of Scientific Reports to “prove” that marijuana is safer than alcohol.  But this study leads to odd conclusions in what the authors, themselves, call a “novel risk assessment methodology.”  For instance, the researchers find that every drug, from cocaine to meth to MDMA to LSD, is found to be safer than alcohol. (See this graph).  By the MPP standard, we should thereby make these substances legal as well.  But, seeing such data in its full light, we all know this would be nonsensical.

Further, the authors specifically write that they only looked at acute effects and did not analyze “chronic toxicity,” and cannot judge marijuana and “long term effects.”  Indeed, they specifically write in their study the toxicity of marijuana “may therefore be underestimated” given the limitations of their examination.  Yet, legalizers ignore these statements.  Always.  It simply does not fit their narrative.

What long-term effects are we talking about?  To cite the New England Journal of Medicine: “addiction, altered brain development, poor educational outcomes, cognitive impairment,” and “increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders.”  Now think about what it will mean to make a drug with those adverse effects more available, and for recreational use.

Finally, the very authors of the much-cited Journal of Scientific Reports study specifically warn their research should be “treated carefully particularly in regard to dissemination to lay people….especially considering the differences of risks between individuals and the whole population.”  But this is precisely what commercialization is about—not individual adult use but making a dangerous drug more available to “the whole population.”

Given what we know in states like Colorado, we clearly see that legalization creates more availability which translates into more use, affecting whole populations—Colorado college-age use, for example, is now 62 percent higher than the national average. [See FN2, below].

And the science is coming in, regularly.  Indeed, the same journal the MPP points to in its two-year old “novel” study, just this year published another study and found:

“[N]eurocognitive function of daily or near daily cannabis users can be substantially impaired from repeated cannabis use, during and beyond the initial phase of intoxication. As a consequence, frequent cannabis use and intoxication can be expected to interfere with neurocognitive performance in many daily environments such as school, work or traffic.

That is why these comparisons of safety and harm are—in the end—absurd and dangerous.  In asking what is safer, the true answer is “neither.”  And for a variety of reasons.  But where one option is impossible to eliminate (as in alcohol), society should not add to the threat that exists:  One doesn’t say because a playground is near train tracks you should also put a highway there.  You fence off the playground.

That, however, is not the choice the MPP has given us.  They are not sponsoring legislation to reduce the harms of alcohol, they are, instead, saying that with all the harms of alcohol, we should now add marijuana.  But looking at all the problems society now has with substance abuse, the task of the serious is to reduce the problems with what already exists, not advance additional dangers.

If the MPP and its Campaigns to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol are serious about working on substance abuse problems, we invite them to join those of us who have labored in these fields for years.  One thing we do know: adding to the problems with faulty arguments, sloppy reasoning, and questionable science, will not reduce the problems they point to.  It will increase them.  And that, beyond faulty argument and sloppy reasoning, is public policy malfeasance.

[1] See http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2464591 compared to http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2300494

[2] 2011/2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health compared to 2013/2014.

Guest Opinion: Recreational marijuana? The price is too high

Seth Leibsohn

Seth Leibsohn

Advocates say we need to regulate pot like alcohol in Arizona, but their measure doesn’t even do that.

If insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results, no word better describes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Arizona.

Colorado and Washington, the first states to do this, have seen increases in teen use of marijuana, traffic fatalities and emergency room visits (including of toddlers) — all tied to marijuana. In Denver, home of most of the pot shops, more than one in three 11th- and 12th-graders are now regular marijuana users, an increase of 20.5 percent from two years ago, according to the latest Colorado youth survey.

Big protections for pot industry

Sheila Polk

Sheila Polk

Arizona should expect similar results, especially since this 20-page initiative is chock full of protectionism for the marijuana industry. Written by out-of-state lobbyists and Arizona marijuana-business owners, it creates two new government agencies, including a seven-member commission with three members mandated to come from the marijuana industry so they can “regulate” themselves.

This initiative gives current medical-marijuana dispensaries a virtual monopoly on retail stores and cultivation. This is not simple legalization, but increased government protecting special interests to the detriment of everyone else.

The initiative would legalize hashish as well, opening the door to high-potency marijuana candies. The marijuana of the 1970s had potency levels of less than 1 percent. Colorado’s marijuana edibles have potency levels of 60 percent.

Stiffer penalties for alcohol than pot

The proponents’ claim that this initiative regulates marijuana like alcohol is disingenuous. The alcohol industry doesn’t dream of being treated as lightly as this initiative would treat marijuana. At every opportunity to advance public safety, the initiative protects marijuana use instead:

  • Using marijuana under the proposed initiative becomes a legal right. Someone who shows up for work drunk can be disciplined or fired based on an alcohol test. But under this initiative, showing up for work impaired by marijuana would be shielded from discipline until after the commission of an act of negligence or malpractice.
  • Any driver with a blood alcohol content over 0.08 percent is legally drunk. The Arizona law would prohibit a THC limit from ever being set.
  • Penalties for a minor using a fake ID to buy marijuana would be far lower than for his friend who uses a fake ID to buy alcohol. Same for someone selling marijuana to a minor using a fake ID.

The experiment in Washington and Colorado shows how disastrous this proposal is.

  • Fatal accidents involving drivers who recently used marijuana more than doubled in Washington in the year after legalization.
  • The rate of people going to Colorado emergency rooms with marijuana-related symptoms rose 44 percent from 2012 to 2014.
  • Employers there report having to hire out of state for a sober workforce.

No amount of cash can justify this

Just as in Arizona, marijuana’s apologists in Colorado and Washington said they wanted to keep marijuana away from children. It didn’t work out that way there and it won’t be different here.

And this is why that matters: Marijuana is “addicting, has adverse effects upon the adolescent brain, is a risk for both cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer, and is associated with both psychiatric illness and negative social outcomes,” according to the American College of Pediatricians.

At what cost? According to the Arizona legislative budget staff, expected revenue from legalizing marijuana could put $30 million into our education system, barely 0.33 percent of what Arizona now spends.

Now balance that minimal amount against the costs of treatment, tragic loss of life from traffic fatalities, workplace accidents, or the lost potential of young brains harmed by marijuana. No amount of money can justify that.

This law would contribute nothing positive to Arizona. Instead it exacts a tremendous cost, all to benefit a handful of marijuana-industry insiders. Arizonans do not need this and will not be able to afford it. The price is too high.

Seth Leibsohn chairs Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. Sheila Polk is the Yavapai County Attorney and vice chair of ARDP. Email them at info@ardp.org.