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Legalized marijuana: Let’s examine the facts


(Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Today’s society is bombarded with information from many sources; these sources of information often have conflicting data and differing points of view. This could not be truer than in the discussions regarding legalized marijuana.

In the Dec. 3, Arizona Capitol Times article titled “Teenagers at ground zero in Arizona’s marijuana battlefield,” J.P. Holyoak, a medical marijuana dispensary owner and president of the Arizona Dispensary Association, commented on the November 18 “Marijuana: The Science and the Experiment” Conference. He was quoted as saying, “I saw a lot of statistical manipulation, half-truths and reefer madness.” My sincere hope is that on the topic of legalized marijuana, citizens of Arizona will examine who truly is utilizing “statistical manipulations and half-truths” and that they review the validity and sources of all information that is presented.

At the Nov. 18 conference, neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Dewey presented facts from scientific research on the effects of marijuana on the brain. He displayed actual brain images of marijuana users showing adverse changes in brain matter. One study that Dr. Dewey discussed confirmed that long-term, consistent marijuana use decreases the user’s IQ.

Also presenting was Mr. Tom Gorman, executive director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Director Gorman presented statistical information from Colorado showing the impact that legalized and medicinal marijuana have had on the state. His sources of information include the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Colorado Department of Revenue. He presented facts showing the increase in overall crime in Denver; the increase in drivers testing positive for marijuana; the increase in traffic fatalities with marijuana-positive drivers; the increase in marijuana-related school suspensions; the increase in emergency department visits related to marijuana; the increase in marijuana diversion; the increase in marijuana use; and the increase in marijuana-related exposures in children. True science and true facts from reliable sources were presented, not “statistical manipulation and half-truths.”

I encourage individuals to look at some of the half-truths from the pro-legalization groups. Common messages are: “Our prisons are full of people convicted of simple marijuana possession;” “Marijuana is not addictive;” “Legal marijuana will stop the drug cartels;” and “Legal marijuana will be the solution to funding education.”
Let’s look at the facts:

• According to the National Office of Drug Control Policy, “Less than 1.4 percent of prisoners are in prison for marijuana drug offense only. Others are criminals guilty of trafficking, growing, manufacturing, selling, or distributing — convicted of multiple offenses that include a marijuana charge.” In Arizona the percentage is even lower than this national statistic. Arizona state law does not allow a prison sentence for marijuana possession until the third offense.

• According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana is an addictive substance. Research shows that one in six youths who try marijuana will become addicted and for daily marijuana users the addiction rate is 25 percent to 50 percent.

• According to the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report, black market sales, growing operations, drug cartels, and illegal drug trafficking are still exploding problems in Colorado. Legalizing another drug will not make drug cartels go away.

When it comes to the topic of raising money for our schools, I shake my head in bewilderment. What sense does it make to legalize a third addictive substance that will cause increased destruction and harm to children, families and education and justify it by claiming it will raise money for our schools? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, current alcohol tax revenues cover less than 10 percent of alcohol-related costs which equal $223.5 billion annually in health care, criminal justice and workplace lost productivity. Do we truly believe this will be any different for marijuana?

Please check the information and the sources of these facts for yourself. The goal of “Marijuana Harmless? Think Again!” is to educate the residents of Arizona on the true harms of marijuana. Our goal is not to make money or to be able to legally get high from a drug. Our goal is to protect the children of Arizona and the future of this great state.

– Merilee Fowler is executive director of MATFORCE, a Yavapai County organization that works to prevent substance abuse.


  1. All this argument over a plant man had nothing to do with creating and requires nothing from man to do what it does that will grow anywhere is really border line stupid.
    The DOJ just allowed Native Americans to grow and sell marijuana on tribal lands regardless of whether the state has legalized marijuana or not..
    Let that soak in with your next beer.

  2. The author prented a lot of half-truths.

  3. LIES! LIES! LIES! Alcohol is 100 times worse! Cannabis cures cancer!

  4. Stop spreading lies & disinformation! You somehow think that spending $B & arresting 600,000 otherwise law abiding citizens a year is a good thing. Your citation of a study pointing to lower IQ’s and brain changes in users is not correct. None of those studies established causation yet you position it that they did. That’s an outright lie! Correlation is not causation. The scientists who performed the studies will even tell you that.

    Quote from the scientist who performed that study: “I think I saw one headline that was ‘Marijuana reshapes the brain’ and I groaned — that’s not what we did,” said Dr. Jodi Gilman, 31, author of the now-famous Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital study on marijuana’s effects, in an interview withPolicyMic. Research is full of nuance, and nuance sometimes gets lost in the conversation. The collective freakout over this study had to do with its findings: Certain regions of the brain of people who smoke marijuana are structurally different than people who don’t. That got interpreted, at least in headlines and ledes, as marijuana changes your brain.”

    In addition, quoting Tom Gorman simply opens up another complete set of statistical lies. His income hinges on keeping drugs like marijuana illegal, what do you think he would say? As a Colorado resident, I can tell you he’s lying….. as are you by quoting him. Highway fatalities & underage use have both dropped measurably.

    As for the cartels, it takes time to eliminate the black market. Legalization has only been in effect for two years, retail sales only a single year. As legalization spreads & more & more states begin retail sales, the financial incentives driving the black market will dry up. It only takes time.

    Your piece is quite disingenuous & full of lies. Shameful….. marijuana legalization is here to stay. Het out of the way or you will be run over.

  5. This is an interesting guest opinion. It has my name in it so I’m going to comment on it.

    This is the same organization that wants to take medical marijuana away from my daughter. They actively seek to overturn Arizona’s medical marijuana law.

    I believe that actions speak louder than words. Per the actions of MATFORCE, they would rather my daughter had seizures everyday than let her have marijuana. They would rather sell her ineffective pharmaceutical drugs that cause her to go blind, destroy her liver, destroy her body and do nothing to improve her quality of life.

    I would only ask them to spend one day in the life of my daughter before they try to take away the only medicine that has ever worked for her. I hope they never have to face the realities that I face every day.

  6. I’m amazed AZ Capitol Times was even willing to run this propaganda. On top of what everyone else has already said, your article is indeed disingenuous and outright false in many places. Ignore the facts if you wish, but the voters won’t in Nov 2016.

    An article in direct reponse to yours, who says it better than I can:

  7. When the current spending bill passes in two days, MEDICAL MARIJUANA will now be FEDERALLY LEGAL!!!!!
    HEMP will also be FEDERALLY LEGAL!
    In every state that allows it!

  8. Merilee Fowler; Who are you mad at? Your efforts to distort the facts take significant effort, why? What is your agenda? Even if we all agree that marijuana can have negative consequences, the cat is out of the bag, education, taxation and regulation is the more intelligent approach. I would like a response to this question though Merilee if you would, does the medicinal impact it has on people matter to you? Do you support the medicinal program?

  9. Here is one lie…with a reference to the truth.

    “Arizona state law does not allow a prison sentence for marijuana possession until the third offense.”

    After fighting a difficult 8-month legal battle, the judge ultimately struck down nearly every single motion she filed to demonstrate her innocence. The day before trial, the judge precluded (forbid) her from discussing nearly every single point of her defense in front of the jury.
    It is severely unfortunate, but not surprising, that on August 8, 2013 she was found guilty of “unlawful production of marijuana” and possession of growing paraphernalia.
    Paula is currently in Pima County jail waiting her sentencing. Needless to say, this has caused a great deal of strife for her family, when all Paula was doing was legally caring for her body with medicine approved by a licensed physician

  10. Ms. Fowler has a strange definition of the word “fact”. Fortunately, she and her fellow enemies of freedom can only fool some of the people all of the time.

  11. I was present all day at the Marijuana Science and Experiment Conference and would like to present some facts. I heard no one there say that they want to take medical marijuana away from anyone who needs it. I heard no one say they want to overturn the Az Medical Marijuana Program. On the contrary. Everyone presenting wanted to see marijuana treated with the respect and caution it deserves. MATFORCE works tirelessly to keep our children safe from ALL addictive substances, to help them make decisions that vastly improve their chances at success in life. MATFORCE does NOT try to ruin anyone’s life. MATFORCE works to save the children who hear your loud voices saying that marijuana is safe. It is not safe for everyone. It is addictive. I know because I saw first hand what it did to ruin my son’s life. I hope all of you who comment here defending irresponsible use and sale of marijuana will someday care more about the thousands of children who will be addicted to marijuana than you do now about getting it into the hands of everyone with a pulse. I am a volunteer with MATFORCE and extremely proud to represent an organization with such heart that has to withstand the relentless cruel criticism of people who do not value the futures of children as we do.

  12. Senator Kimberly Yee runs Arizona and marijuana is her #1 target…..

    Marijuana is Dominating the country, Dominating

  13. They attack marijuana again?. A plant that helps cure certain diseases. why not start a war on alcohol it does far worse than marijuana and those “closed” cases of krokodil the most dangerous drug hit the streets of Phoenix keep our kids safe from other drugs that eat away your skin and rot your blood. If people keep blaming marijuana other designer drugs will creep in killing our teens and children. Recreational Marijuana is smart “Legalization” is a word that doesn’t belong there let people have their harmless plant less IQ? sure beats Lung Cancer from Cigarettes, and Liver Poisoning from Alcohol. You people are stupid just gonna make Arizona more dangerous than it already is.

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