Arizona Republic: Poll shows Arizona marijuana-legalization campaign could fail if voted on today

Arizona Republic: Poll shows Arizona marijuana-legalization campaign could fail if voted on today

As seen on AZCentral.com

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
April 20, 2016

If a vote were taken today, Arizonans could reject an initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana by adults, according to a poll released by the campaign opposing the plan.

The survey shows 43 percent of likely voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use while 49 percent would vote against it. About 8 percent of likely voters were undecided. The telephone survey has a margin of error of about 4 percent.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy released the poll on the eve of 4/20, a day on which the drug culture celebrates and consumes cannabis.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot that would allow people age 21 and older to carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in a home occupied by at least two people, without obtaining licenses. It would also create a distribution system similar to Colorado’s, where licensed businesses produce and sell marijuana, which would be taxed.

Barrett Marson, spokesman for the legalization campaign, said of the poll results: “We look forward to a vigorous campaign informing voters of the benefits of ending the failed policy of prohibition. By regulating and taxing marijuana, we benefit our schools and keep it out of the hands of teens.”

The poll, released to The Arizona Republic on Tuesday, shows voters could narrowly oppose the measure. According to the survey of 500 likely voters conducted April 11 through April 14:

  • When asked if they would be more or less likely to support the ballot measure if they knew recreational marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent and the funds would go to public health and education, 50 percent said they would be more likely to support the measure, while 29 percent said they would be less likely to support it. Eighteen percent said the tax would not really change their decision, while 4 percent were undecided and 1 percent wouldn’t answer the question.
  • About 19 percent said they would be more likely to support legalization in Arizona after being told teen use of the drug here is 70 percent higher than the national average. About 53 percent said they would be less likely to vote for the measure, 21 percent said they still held the same view, 6 percent were undecided and 1 percent wouldn’t answer the question.
  • Asked if they knew the measure would allow growth of up to 12 plants in their homes and allow them to smoke in their backyard, 31 percent said they would be more likely to vote for it, 52 percent would be less likely, 13 percent said their opinion remained about the same, 3 percent were undecided and 1 percent refused to answer.

Of those who responded, 39 percent were Republican, 33 percent were Democrat, 28 percent were independent, and 1 percent didn’t know their affiliation. About 36 percent were 65 or older, 21 percent were 55-64 years old, 17 percent were 45-54 years old, 13 percent were 35-44 years old and 13 percent were 18-34 years old.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy argues legalization could upend decades of policies surrounding substance-abuse prevention, law-enforcement and health. They argue legalization could lead to the abuse of marijuana and negatively impact the workplace.

The group’s leaders, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and radio host Seth Leibsohn, say legalization could lead to increased incidents of impaired driving and lead to accidental ingestion by youth who may find marijuana-laced cookies and candies enticing without knowing they contain the drug.

“Advocates for recreational marijuana argue that legalization is inevitable, but this poll shows it’s just not true,” Leibsohn said in a statement. “Arizonans are beginning to understand that today’s marijuana is not the marijuana of the past. It’s a great deal more potent — practically a different drug — and is made attractive to youth in seemingly innocuous candies like gummy bears.”

Campaign officials argue prohibition of the drug has been a failure, and it’s in the public’s best interest to try to regulate and tax it.

Taxation of the proposed program would pay the state’s cost of implementing and enforcing the initiative. Forty percent of the taxes on marijuana would be directed to the Department of Education for construction, maintenance and operation costs, including salaries of K-12 teachers. Another 40 percent would be set aside for full-day kindergarten programs. Twenty percent would go to the state Department of Health Services for unspecified uses.

A state Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control would regulate the “cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation and sale of marijuana” and would give local governments the authority to regulate and ban marijuana stores. Current medical-marijuana dispensary owners would get first dibs on licenses for the stores.

Guest Opinion: The New Reefer Madness: A Very Bad Idea

Marijuana

By Seth Leibsohn

Since just the beginning of this year, local media—both television news and print—have publicized and promoted at least 10 stories on the effort to legalize recreational marijuana use in Arizona. Two bills are being sponsored in the state Legislature and an initiative aimed at our  electorate for 2016 is being drafted. Little has been said or written as to why all of this is a very bad idea for our state and our country. But it is just that, a very bad idea.

Almost every argument in favor of legalization is, quite simply, wrong. At the economic level, we are told the revenues from legalization would boost our state budget and help solve our deficit. That was a promise made by the pro-legalization movement in Colorado, which predicted $40 million a year for school construction and $30 million for general state funds from marijuana taxes in the state. But, as the non-partisan Tax Foundation found, the numbers thus far have come nowhere close, making it “unlikely to even meet that $40 million need each year, leaving nothing for enforcement costs.”

Ask any governor of any state if they would rather keep all the revenue from alcohol and tobacco taxes or all the monies alcohol and tobacco abuse costs the state, and you’d get the same answer: The costs of substance abuse to each and every state are never even close to covered by the revenues generated by the taxes on those substances. As President Barack Obama’s former senior advisor on drug policy, Dr. Kevin Sabet, has put it, “[S]ocietal costs that accompany increased marijuana use will significantly outweigh any gains in tax revenue. Our experience with alcohol and tobacco shows that for every one dollar gained in taxes, 10 dollars are lost in social costs.”

Criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be nearly impossible and equally ill-advised at this point. I am not advocating that at all. But adding one more dangerous substance to the list of already too many legal and dangerous substances is pure madness. The debate as to whether marijuana is more or less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco is irrelevant. We need, rather, to understand that marijuana is just, plain dangerous; and adding one more dangerous product (regardless of degree of danger) is more than a bad idea; it is public policy malfeasance.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported just last year that marijuana use by adolescents is associated with everything from increased risk of depression and anxiety to psychosis. And, it “exacerbates the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia.” Marijuana use is also associated with impaired school performance and increases the risk of dropping out of high school. In lay terms, marijuana damages the brain, especially the teen brain. Society has made tremendous strides in marginalizing and thus decreasing the use of cigarette smoking—which negatively affects the lungs and hearts of smokers. It is curious, then, that more and more are now turning toward legalizing a product that not only damages the lungs (like cigarettes), but also the brain.

Many adults think marijuana is relatively harmless based on their experiences in high school and college a generation or more ago. But that marijuana is not today’s marijuana. Today’s marijuana is a different drug, with THC levels reaching into the 20 and 30 percent range of potency, as opposed to the one-and-a-half to five percent potency of the 1970s and 1980s. And it is getting stronger by the day as vendors compete to provide ever stronger affects with an ever more potent product.

The quest to legalize marijuana at the state level is also an unconstitutional nullification of federal law—as a range of Supreme Court Justices from Anthony Kennedy to Stephen Breyer to Antonin Scalia agree. It also negatively impacts other states as pot sold “legally” in one state flows across borders and causes problems in neighboring states, thus nullifying those states’ decisions to remain within the law. Indeed, some 44 percent of the marijuana sold in Colorado is sold to citizens of other states.
Despite what many say—either from unfamiliarity with the science or because of a political point of view or because some people simply want to get high legally—marijuana is dangerous. Making it legal will cost society more in financial and human damage than can ever be made up for by the false promise of tax revenue. And it will further destigmatize what every study on marijuana use and stigmatization has shown: the more society explains the dangers of marijuana, the less it is used; the more society countenances it, the more it is used.  Marijuana is illegal not because of bad policy but because it causes a lot of problems—a lot more than we will ever be able to apologize for if we unload this dangerous product on, and in to, more and more of our state’s and nation’s youth, which is—like alcohol and tobacco—where it will end up and do the most damage.

Seth Leibsohn is the host of The Seth Leibsohn Show, airing nightly on KKNT/960 am, and a Senior Fellow with the Claremont Institute.