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.

What some Arizonas are saying about legalizing Marijuana

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy

What They Are Saying

Legalizing recreational marijuana would be detrimental to Arizonans’ lifestyle, safety and productivity. Four states and the District of Columbia have already legalized the drug and are seeing disastrous repercussions in their youth, work places and communities. Read below to see what experts, Arizonans and those already effected by legal marijuana have to say.

Linda ValdezArizona Republic Reporter Linda Valdez
“Arizona doesn’t have to release the cat now. We can wait and see how things play out in Colorado and other states that are trying the legalization experiment.”

The Arizona Republic | June 21

Congressman Matt SalmonMatt Salmon
“I am against this initiative legalizing marijuana in Arizona,” said Congressman Matt Salmon. “At a time when government should be shrinking and we should be having less government in our lives, the last thing I want to see is one more initiative that creates other levels of government.”

ARDP.org | June 20

Seth LeibsohnARDP Chairman Seth Leibsohn
“Leave it to the marijuana industry to take a holiday of joy and family bonding to promote the expanded sale and use of a drug better known by medical and scientific research to be the opposite of those very things. We are just now learning about increased traffic fatalities due to marijuana impaired drivers in states that have legalized marijuana for social and recreational use. We are just now learning about more and more childhood hospitalizations due to marijuana ingestion by our youth due to marijuana candies and edibles.”

ARDP.org | June 16

Roy BinghamHead of Pot-Industry Tracking Firm BDS Analytics Roy Bingham*
On an initiative to package marijuana with warnings that marijuana carries a risk of “permanent loss of brain abilities”:

“The initiative could devastate Colorado’s fastest-growing industry.”

CBS Denver | June 16

APS spokesman Jim McDonald
“Our concern emanates from the employment law language in the proposal, especially considering the public safety aspects involved in supplying reliable electric service to APS customers,” said McDonald. “The initiative simply does not support the kind of workplace required to operate the electric grid, make repairs to the system after a monsoon storm or operate the nation’s largest nuclear power plant.”

Phoenix New Times | June 14

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  • Roy Bingham is not a resident of Arizona.

VIDEO: 4/20 is no joke

Watch the latest from Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy:

Sally’s son, Andy, committed suicide after becoming addicted to marijuana. In his suicide note, he said “marijuana killed my soul and ruined my brain.”

4/20 is no joke. And neither is recreational marijuana.

Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy actively opposes any initiative to legalize recreational and commercial marijuana in Arizona.

Visit www.ardp.org for more info on what you can do to stop another story like Andy’s from happening in AZ.