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.