Foes, proponents weigh outcomes of pot initiative

pot
Prop 205, a bid to legalize recreational marijuana, is on the ballot in Arizona and four other states this year.

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By Joyce Coronel

As the nation gears up for one of the most contentious presidential  elections in years, residents of Tempe and West Chandler are also keeping an eye on what’s happening right here in Arizona.

That’s because Proposition 205, an initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults, is on the ballot.

So far, the polling is close, with slightly more Arizona voters favoring the measure.

Four other states are also considering decriminalizing recreational pot and proponents say that if the initiative passes, marijuana will be taken off the black market.

J.P. Holyoak and Carlos Alfaro of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project, wrote one of the eight arguments in favor of Proposition 205 for the 2016 general election publicity pamphlet published by the Arizona Secretary of State.

“It’s time to stop punishing adults who use marijuana responsibly,” Holyoak and Alfaro’s statement read in part. “This initiative will accomplish that goal in a manner that protects consumers, enhances public safety, provides for local control, generates tax revenue, and creates thousands of new jobs in the state.”

Sarah Mayhew of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice also wrote an argument in favor of Prop. 205 in the publicity pamphlet, stating that the initiative would improve public safety, reduce government spending and provided much-needed revenue for public education and drug treatment.

Ed Gogek, an Arizona psychiatrist who has treated more than 10,000 addicts in his 30-year career, was having none of it. His was one of more than four dozen arguments against Prop. 205 in the publicity pamphlet and he discussed some of his reasons for opposing the measure.

He said Prop. 205 is built on deceptive claims.

“The tobacco industry always said, ‘We’re just doing this for adults,’ and they were lying. They were targeting kids and the marijuana industry is targeting kids too. If they don’t get kids started, there is no marijuana industry,” Gogek told Wrangler News.

“They have written right into Proposition 205 that they are allowed to sell edibles—candy, cookies and soda infused with marijuana. That stuff is just hugely attractive to teenagers.”

Proponents of 205 argue that the measure will be beneficial because 80 percent of the tax revenue generated by sales will go to schools. Gogek claims that’s deceptive too.

“All the money in taxes that comes in goes to cleaning up the messes that marijuana causes,” Gogek said. 

Tasha Suhr knows all about the messes. Her sister has a drug problem and so Suhr was given custody of her two nieces. One of them now struggles with an addiction to marijuana and attends a support group in Tempe.

“It’s definitely not harmless,” Suhr said. Her niece once dreamed of becoming an orthopedic surgeon, but those dreams have been put on hold, Suhr said.  Although her niece graduated high school early, “over the summer, her addiction spiraled out of control, so we wouldn’t let her go to NAU. Instead she was taking online classes through NAU and failed out of those because she started using again. I’ve been fighting this addiction of hers for a couple of years now. When she does stop using, it takes a good month before she becomes a normal person again.”

Terri Kimble, CEO/president of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, voiced the organization’s opposition to Prop. 205.

“The Chandler Chamber of Commerce believes that Prop 205, if passed, would do irrevocable harm to the business community of Chandler, restricting a business’s ability to effectively enforce existing substance abuse policies and manage their workforce; and create a climate which could affect business relocation and/or expansion into the region,” Kimble said.

“The chamber does not believe that the possible economic impact tax revenue generated from this measure would outweigh the loss of economic development the state could suffer from businesses deciding to locate elsewhere as a direct result of Prop 205 passing. We join a growing chorus of business interest groups, and Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration, in opposing this potentially harmful measure.”

Ducey has been sharp in his criticism of Prop. 205.

“Once you get past the enforcement and the bureaucracy and the social costs, this is a financial loser,” Ducey said. Like Gogek, he dismisses the argument about tax revenue going to schools. “If anything, this hurts education, this hurts schools. What student ever got smarter by being stoned in the classroom? That’s what you’re seeing all over Colorado,” Ducey said. The Rocky Mountain State legalized recreational pot in 2012.

A number of organizations oppose Prop. 205, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents. Arizona’s Democratic Party and two members of its congressional delegation have endorsed the measure.

Gogek, who authored “Debunking Marijuana” in 2015, lays out the case against cannabis in his 330-page book (InnerQuestBooks.com). Perhaps one of his more compelling claims is the scientific research he points to that shows the impact on the brains of teens who use marijuana.

“People who use marijuana before age 17 or 18 can inflict permanent damage. And most marijuana users start before age 18,” Gogek writes. Other studies Gogek cites show an eight-point drop in IQ for heavy marijuana users.

Joyce Coronel
Joyce Coronel has been interviewing and writing stories since she was 12, and she’s got the scrapbooks to prove it. The mother of five grown sons and native of Arizona is passionate about local news and has been involved in media since 2002, coming aboard at Wrangler News in 2015. Joyce believes strongly that newspapers are a lifeline to an informed public and a means by which neighbors can build a sense of community—vitally important in today’s complex world.

Comments

  1. Addiction what the hell are you talking about, I’ve been smoking since 1969 I’m not addicted , I’m 62 no know health problems that I’m aware of. I’m convinced it has kept me healthy.

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