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3/12/2014 11:15:00 AM
Marijuana issue: more money or more smoke?
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Briana Lonas

Safer Arizona recently issued an initiative geared towards boosting the state's economy by way of legalizing marijuana.

The Town of Prescott Valley became the first municipality to sign a resolution opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana. While other state communities appear to be nodding in the same direction, the fight to prevent the initiative from gaining enough signatures on the 2016 ballot will be an uphill battle, according to those in opposition.

The Marijuana Policy Project is not directly involved in the Safer Arizona petition, but its statistics state, "Arizona spends more than $85 million per year enforcing marijuana possession laws, which make up over 56% of all drug arrests."

The MPP supports marijuana regulation and plans to pursue full legalization in Arizona through a voter initiative in 2016.

An excerpt from the initiative says, "The legislature shall enact an excise to be levied upon Marijuana... requiring half of the revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to Arizona Department of Health Services.

The initiative, on a local level, has created a volley of numbers going back and forth both in support and in opposition of the legalization issue.

"When you talk to a pharmacist, the first thing that comes to mind is that marijuana is a drug and it is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which refers to this as a schedule one controlled substance. A schedule 1 status is for those drugs proven to have no medicinal use. The risks outweigh the benefits in the pharmacy world," said Paul Smith, the director of pharmacy at the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic.

Marijuana is still illegal under the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Smith gave the example of morphine and explained how this drug is produced, licensed and tracked to ensure a standardized product. "There are safeguards the government puts in place to protect the public," Smith said.

At the Clinic in Prescott Valley, patients with significant mental illnesses need certain medications to succeed in their lives and continue their social connections within the community, he said.

"To them, their life is not normal. Some patients use street drugs to remove them from their problem. Once marijuana is legal, they can get it anywhere and that's another problem we will have to deal with," Smith said.

The next wild card is that marijuana grown today is much more potent with THC levels now 15 to 18 percent. In the 60s, levels ranged from 3 to 5 percent.

The initiative is a Pandora's box ready to be opened, he said.

MATForce executive director Merilee Fowler believes that if enough people get behind the initiative, there could be success in opposing the legalization in the state. Colorado passed it and it may take years before the true ramifications of the legalization are known, she said. "It is up to parents to teach their kids not to take drugs," she said adding the MPP has a lot of money to throw at its campaign, designed to sway the public with its own statistical studies.

MATForce works to reduce substance abuse in Yavapai County.

Prescott Valley Councilmember Stephen Marshall does not oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana and would quickly tell any youth that smoking marijuana is not the right thing to do.

"No one wants to glorify it, or have kids use it. If marijuana is legalized, it will be regulated. Right now, marijuana is easier to get than tobacco for those under the age of 21," Marshall said.

He said there is much scientific data that shows legalization will not destroy America. "I completely agree that people should not drive under the influence of marijuana. I'm not going to smoke it and most of the people I know won't either," he said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014
Article comment by: Dave K

"When you talk to a pharmacist, the first thing that comes to mind is that marijuana is a drug and it is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which refers to this as a schedule one controlled substance. A schedule 1 status is for those drugs proven to have no medicinal use. The risks outweigh the benefits in the pharmacy world," said Paul Smith, the director of pharmacy at the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic.

The U.S. Patent Office issued patent #6630507 to the U.S.Health and Human Services filed on 2/2/2001. The patent lists the use of certain cannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant as useful in certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and HIV dementia. Since cannabis sativa (marijuana) contains compounds recognized and endorsed by an agency of the U.S. government- Why is it that marijuana remains on the Federal Schedule One list of drugs? The issuance of patent #6630507 is a direct contradiction of the governments own definition for classification of a Schedule 1 drug.

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014
Article comment by: Dave K

Prohibition is a destructive and costly failure. Despite the current annual price tag of nearly $86 million spent enforcing laws against possession in Arizona according to a recent analysis by the ACLU, marijuana is widely
available, especially to adolescents. Adolescents are at higher risk of developing problems with marijuana. If we can regulate substances like alcohol and tobacco that actually kill many more people we can regulate marijuana. Unlike drug dealers regulated marijuana retailers in Colorado do not deal drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, or prescription medicines. They check IDs and they do not sell to kids. The government's own SAMHSA drug surveys have reported for many years that our kids say they can now get marijuana more easily than they can get alcohol or tobacco. We haven't listened. While prescription drug overdoses kill more people in Arizona than do traffic accidents our Republican legislators spend their time trying to keep medicine from medical marijuana patients. Our priorities in the War on Drugs do not benefit the people in Arizona who are dying daily. These priorities will not change until the people of Arizona send a clear message to legalize marijuana and to regulate it like alcohol.

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014
Article comment by: Brian Kelly

Name calling and stereotyping. It's all that prohibitionists have left to offer society since virtually every piece of marijuana propaganda out there has been thoroughly debunked and completely dismissed by a smarter than prohibitionists thought public.

Nobody can provide a real reason to continue the "War on Marijuana" because there isn't one.

You know, a little live and let live goes a real long way in ensuring a long, stress and anger free life. If you don't like marijuana, then by all means don't use it. Allow others to make their own choices about marijuana.

The government has no business attempting to legislate morality by creating victim-less "crimes" because it simply doesn't work and has already cost the taxpayers over a trillion dollars.

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014
Article comment by: Ho Hum

Enough of the Marijuana b.s. I'm sick and tired of 20 year olds with their medical marijuana cards yet are healthy as can be. Marijuana is a recreational drug and can and will affect a person who has smoked it. I'm sick of people collecting welfare and food stamps but yet they can buy their marijuana now can't they. The welfare system sucks and the druggies are draining our system and tax dollars. Why are we supporting this. Stop giving them welfare and food stamps and make them go out and work.

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014
Article comment by: mass vocals

re - legalize regulate / and end the drug dope show for libery sake .

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Article comment by: Brian Kelly

The "War on Marijuana" has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful "War on Drugs" that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending "War on Marijuana", lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It's a no brainer.

The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

Marijuana is much safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

Let's end this hypocrisy now!

The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less "crimes" because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that's approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

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