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Article minimizes marijuana’s link to child deaths

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk

In his article “Facts show Polk’s claim about marijuana deaths among children is misleading,” (June 22 online and June 26 in print), Ben Giles falls head over heels trying to minimize the Arizona Fatality Report that links marijuana use to 62 child deaths in Arizona in 2013. This is eerily reminiscent of the Big Tobacco lobby in the 1980s and 1990s which kept trying to tell us “associated” health risks were not the same as “directly caused” problems with tobacco.

Here it is, straight from the report: “In 2013, marijuana was the most commonly used substance associated with a child’s death in Arizona.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that. We simply cannot fathom why anyone concerned with public health would want to minimize this point. If this were any drug other than marijuana, Mr. Giles and others would join the growing group of concerned folks who see that marijuana is a harmful, addictive drug.

But unfortunately, those who are in favor of marijuana legalization immediately go on the attack when a new journal article or scientific study is released that does not support their own agenda. They attack because they are afraid that if the truth about marijuana is known, more people would come to the conclusion that legalization is bad for our kids, their futures, and our communities.

Let us be clear: When the marijuana lobby tells people marijuana is safer than alcohol, it is they who are raising the health risks associated with alcohol. We agree with them that alcohol is dangerous. But the same report that shows alcohol is associated with child fatalities in Arizona also makes the same point, with the same language, about marijuana—and finds marijuana was involved in more child fatalities in 2013 than alcohol. Why does the marijuana lobby get to speak of alcohol’s related and associated health risks but we — who have a long record in substance abuse prevention — cannot speak also of marijuana’s health risks?

Mr. Giles also dismisses the 16 percent increase in Arizona’s high school students as just a “few teens” who will likely try marijuana if it is legal. In fact, 16 percent means 32,000 of our students who have never tried marijuana would be more likely to try it if legal. Another 76,000 who have tried it will be more likely to use it. The point is clear to anyone who has studied the trend in other states, as we have in Colorado. Legality begets more availability and more availability begets more use.

To read Mr. Giles’ and the marijuana lobby’s position, one would think they have found the first product ever whose legalization was sought in order not to maximize sales and consumption. Still, Mr. Giles and others keep stating the marijuana legalization effort is aimed at legalizing the product for adults, not children. Let us remind: Alcohol is also only permitted for adult use, but somehow over 24 percent of Arizona’s teens consume it regularly. Nationally, the rate of regular alcohol use by 16 and 17 year-olds is about the same. Why? Because it is legal and available. If we want marijuana to look like alcohol we should very much be prepared to see our teen population using more marijuana if it is legalized — just like alcohol.

Here’s the bottom line:  For Arizona to legalize recreational and retail marijuana is to upend decades and decades of concerted efforts to curb substance abuse and addiction in our health care community, our education community, our law enforcement community, our social work community, and practically everywhere else. If we are going to engage in such a radical change of all those years of work by all those institutions, the side that wants us to experiment like this with our children owes us a lot more information, such as the true costs as well as the true revenue. They are simply not providing it; it’s all guesswork. It’s all guesswork by them on behalf of a radical change.

At the end of the day, every Arizonan should be haunted by the recent quote on “60 Minutes” from Andrew Freedman, the Colorado director of marijuana policy coordination. “I do worry about if we are irreparably harming Colorado—and it will take years to suss out.”

Who, in their right mind, would want that worry in Arizona?

—   Seth Leibsohn is chairman of Sheila Polk is vice chair and  Shawnna Bolick, Merilee Fowler and Sally Schindel are board members.

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  1. “Here it is, straight from the report: “In 2013, marijuana was the most commonly used substance associated with a child’s death in Arizona.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that. ”

    Not if that includes alcohol…

    And what dose “linked to marijuana use” mean? That’s like saying it’s marijuana’s fault if a kid shoots himself when there’s a gun laying around. Totally ignoring that fact that the kid might have been abused, bullied, depressed, or not properly trained in gun safety, i.e. the real underlying cause. What if he drank a beer? I doubt that would even be brought up.

  2. And since when does a Republican what to create a nanny state situation. It seems to me that Republicans only want their corporate partners to have unfettered freedoms, but control the individual when it comes to drugs or their sex life. The party does nothing to control alcohol. Maybe that’s because they all drink and want that big check from the alcohol lobby.

    What happened to personal freedom and responsibility?

  3. Nick Danger, Third Eye

    Here’s the bottom line: For Arizona to legalize recreational and retail marijuana is to upend decades and decades of utter failure to curb substance abuse and addiction in our health care community, our education community, our law enforcement community, our social work community, and practically everywhere else. If we are going to engage in such a reasonable change of all those years of failure by all those institutions, the side that wants us to obstruct this for every Arizonan owes us a lot more information, such as the truely ruined lives as well as the true death toll. They are simply not providing it; it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s all sophistry by them on behalf of a fear of change.

    Read more:

  4. This article is wrong, you’re wro g and a danger to public policy and society in general. They were downplayed because they needed to be. The report states as fact that if marijuana (no matter how much) was found anywhere in the vicinity and/or is connected to anyone involved in the death then the child died of a marijuana related death which is very stupid. That’s like saying if a child climbs on a book case when mom or dad are in the other room and the thing falls on them and kills them it’s a alcohol related death because a couple beers in the fridge. This article is nonsense.

  5. “Marijuana has been the object of scorn and derision for nearly a century. Nicknamed ‘the evil weed,’ it has been the target of hysterical, multibillion dollar eradication campaigns intended to destroy the plant and eliminate its use. Yet it endures. Marijuana consumption is more popular than it has ever been. Drug warriors continue trying to persuade the public that marijuana is a dangerous substance, but their task is getting increasingly difficult as science uncovers more data about how marijuana really affects the body. After decades of unsupported fear-mongering, careful scientific research is now showing that marijuana is actually very good for our health. We now know that marijuana is not a gateway to drug addiction or illness. What the latest research makes clear is that, if marijuana is a gateway to anything, it is a gateway to health. Marijuana is beginning to emerge from under a cloud of contempt because it has been at the center of one of the most exciting and under-appreciated developments in biological science in recent times. Research on its psychological effects led directly to the discovery of a new chemical signaling system in the human body which is now recognized as playing a crucial role in regulating our neurology and physiology. It is becoming increasingly clear that this biological communication and regulatory system also powerfully affects the development and progression of numerous illnesses, especially cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. In the context of the last hundred years of propaganda and prohibition, it is both ironic and amusing that this system never would have been discovered had it not been for the widespread ‘recreational’ use of marijuana. The discovery of this profoundly important biological regulatory system—this new understanding of how our vital mental and physical functions work and remain in balance—arose from the search to find out how marijuana gets people high.”

    Werner, Clint (2012-02-11). Marijuana Gateway to Health: How Cannabis Protects Us from Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease (Kindle Locations 92-94). Dachstar Press. Kindle Edition.

  6. “It doesn’t get any clearer than that. We simply cannot fathom why anyone concerned with public health would want to minimize this point. ”

    Those with an elementary school grasp of the principles of science and or logic knows that correlation is NOT causation.

    If you are not smart enough to understand this, you probably aren’t smart enough to understand the endocannabinoid system and the pros and cons of phytocannabinoid supplementation. It’s no wonder you are anti-pot when you can’t begin to understand it.

    I’d rant but I really should run to the dispensary.

  7. A small group of people who smoke marijuana heavily or who plan to get rich selling it are people most strongly in favor of legalization. For the rest of the country, legalization is a terrible idea.

  8. Politicians who continue to demonize Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

    There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

    The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority and rapidly shrinking percentage of Americans. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

    Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

    Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The vast majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

    With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

    Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that 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!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

  9. If I were you and worried so much about “saving all of us” adults from ourselves, under the guise of protecting “The Children”, well then, I’d begin with the deadliest drug, which causes more broken homes, domestic violence, and traffic fatalities than all other drugs, combined, which is alcohol.

    Yet alcohol remains perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised, even glorified as an All American pastime.

    Why doesn’t the much more prevalent, more widely abused, use of alcohol concern you much more than marijuana which is a relatively benign drug when compared to all other ones?

    Protesting the legality of booze should be your number one priority if you are truly so concerned about “saving us all” from ourselves.

    Regarding “The Children”,

    Let’s not use “The Children” as an excuse to prohibit and criminalize adult use of a natural plant far less dangerous than perfectly legal alcohol because nobody condones child use, and this is about allowing adults only to choose marijuana.

    It’s our responsibility as parents by to educate our children on drug use. It’s not the government’s job to force Draconian Marijuana Laws upon every adult citizen under the guise of protecting “The Children”.

    What message are we sending our children when it is easier for them to obtain marijuana now with it being illegal than it is for them to buy alcohol?

    It doesn’t take the intellect of a genius to understand that stores card kids for I.D. Thugs and gang members do not. They also push the real hard drugs on children. Stores do not.

    Marijuana legalization will make it harder for children to obtain it.

    What message does it send our children when the President of The United States himself alongside a long list of successful people openly admit regular pot use at one time or another in their lives?

    While we tell our kids how it will ruin their futures, and then insure so, by allowing our government to to jail our children and give them permanent criminal records when they get caught with a little Marijuana. Especially, if they are the wrong skin color or from the “wrong neighborhood”. Which in turn, ruins their chances of employment for life.

    The Prohibition of Marijuana is the wrong message to send our children while we glorify, advertise and promote the much more dangerous use of alcohol like it’s an all American pastime.

    The worst thing about marijuana and our children is what happens to them when they get caught up in the criminal justice system due to it’s prohibition.

    Protect “The Children” and Our Neighborhoods Through The Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Nationwide!

  10. In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

    In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

    Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

    People who use marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

    Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make us out to be. We are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

    Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

    Although that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

    To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, advertises, and even glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

    There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long hard day than having a drink or two of alcohol.

    So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

    We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

    Has a marijuana user ever forced you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force us not to either.

    Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon all of us with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

  11. funny for years the whole prohibition FAILED FOR YEARS its a waste of money you havnt lowerd the amount of smokers if anything there is way way more smokers now then there ever was so the whole going back on years of works is pure bull**** more like years of locking up ppl for lil to no harm and ruinin faimlys so you can have you pay off from big corp.

  12. One person is killed every half-hour in the US due to drunk driving. Each year over 16,000 are killed in alcohol related crashes. Alcohol is a factor in about half of all traffic fatalities. Every 2-3 minutes someone is seriously injured in an alcohol related crash. Beer drinkers are the largest, most lethal, terror group in America. They destroy over 10,000 innocent lives each year and over 88,000 will perish of alcohol related problems. An estimated 20 million cases of beer are sold to Americans for consumption on a typical Super Bowl game day. Some of these people will end up driving drunk. There will be accidents. There will be deaths. There will be fights and domestic violence. There will be people puking, people passed out, and many folks will end up doing things they will really regret the next morning. Some people will die from an alcohol overdose. The narcotic, cancer-causing DRUG, ethanol found in beer, wine and liquor is the leading cause of fatalities for ages 16-20 according to National Institute of Health statistics and the leading cause of date rapes on college campuses across America. Cannabis… none of the above.

  13. “From a pharmacological perspective, cannabinoids are considerably safer than opioids and have broad applicability in palliative care. Had cannabis not been removed from our pharmacopoeia 7 decades ago and remained available to treat chronic pain, potentially thousands of lives that have been lost to opioid toxicity could have been prevented.” (Carter, et al., 2011)

    A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests medical marijuana may be an antidote for the scourge of fatal overdoses caused by prescription pain medication. Medical marijuana patients have reported for many years that they use fewer prescribed pain medications when medical marijuana is available. Research, reported in the JAMA Internal Medicine (Aug 2014), finds that deaths associated with the use of opiate drugs fell in 13 states after they legalized medical marijuana. Compared to states with no formal access to marijuana, those that allowed patients legal access to cannabis saw a steady drop in opiate-related overdoses that reached 33%, on average, six years after the state’s medical marijuana laws took effect.

    Although our Right Wing Nut Jobs focus on what they perceive will be costs associated with marijuana few or none focus on the positive aspects or public health benefits of ending prohibition. Prescription drug overdoses have surpassed traffic accidents as a cause of death in Arizona. The legalization and regulation of cannabis will have long term benefits and improve the health of Arizonans who would otherwise die of opiate drugs. Legalize and regulate this effective natural herbal medicine like alcohol in 2016.

    [Carter et al. Cannabis in palliative medicine: improving care and reducing opioid-related
    morbidity. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2011.]

  14. STOP LYING TO THE PEOPLE ABOUT LEGALIZATION AND REGULATION!!! To suggest that medical marijuana and legalization and regulation of marijuana is not having an effects on the cartels is a DAMNED lie perpetrated by Arizona prosecutors. Apparently they attended Arizona schools and are unable to read Time magazine:

    “…the amount of one drug — marijuana — seems to have finally fallen. U.S. Border Patrol has been seizing steadily smaller quantities of the drug, from 2.5 million pounds in 2011 to 1.9 million pounds in 2014. Mexico’s army has noted an even steeper decline, confiscating 664 tons of cannabis in 2014, a drop of 32% compared to year before.” Time Magazine, Ioan Grillo/Mexico City @ioangrillo April 8, 2015

    “Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy … and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with ‘scientific support’ … fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. … The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.”

    — William F. Buckley,

    Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495

    To help stop the flow of drugs into Arizona, legalize and regulate like alcohol in 2016.

  15. This issue has nothing to do with health or safety. The Federal government has no Constitutional authority to tell you what you may or may not put into your own body. The so-called “war on drugs” has been illegal since the day it began. It has cost billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives and accomplished nothing other than the creation of entirely new criminal cartels. The serious narcotic addiction rate in the year 2000 was virtually unchanged from that in 1900. The U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any nation on earth and the vast majority of those locked up are in there for petty, non-violent drug-related crimes. When will we wake up and realize that the medicine is far worse than the disease?

  16. Wow. Obviously the marajuana lobby is out in force in the comments section. Their claims are ridiculous. As an educator, I’ve seen the tragic effects of the drug in the lives of countless students. pot use begins, grades and behavior tanks. Where do they get the weed? From their parents in most cases. Want to ruin our society? Legalization is the best and quickest way. And let’s stop with all the alcohol comparisons. Adding legalized marajuana is like throwing gas on an already difficult societal problem: alcohol abuse.

  17. The fact that the Arizona Capitol Times, a newspaper of the highest reputation, is willing to regurgitate such utter garbage is a shame. Once again, Sheila Polk is peddling her fallacy-laden arguments, and the media gives her an opportunity to do so under the auspices of equivalence.

    Polk’s assertions about these 62 child deaths and their connection to marijuana are a farce and she either knows it and is acting in bad faith, or is ignorant to the logical deficiency of her argument and is unqualified to participate in the debate. Most likely, it’s the former. This has nothing to do with children or some tangential connection between several unfortunate deaths and marijuana.

    This has to do with one thing and one thing only: money.

    Ask yourself this question and see what answer you come to: Why is the only organized opposition to marijuana legalization coming from the county prosecutors? The correct answer is because they have a financial stake in the illegality of marijuana. They arrest and charge people for possession or sale of marijuana, which brings revenue to their court systems, and keeps prosecutors working. Polk, and every other prosecutor around the state, want to keep the status quo. That is, they want to keep marijuana illegal, which would work to maintain the budget supported by marijuana’s illegality, along with the revenue it produces for their counties through court fines and RICO seizures. Just imagine what would happen if suddenly Polk had all marijuana arrests and charges taken away from her. The Yavapai County prosecutor’s office would need to scale back its budget, maybe even get rid of some prosecutors. That flies in the face of a basic fact taught to any Political Science 101 class, which is that every government body works to increase its size and budget over time.

    Otherwise, the only other constituency that has a financial stake in keeping marijuana illegal are the court ordered drug rehabilitation facilities that have partnered with the courts and which suck money from the pockets of those unfortunate enough to be caught in possession of marijuana by law enforcement. Expect to see money flow from these businesses into the opposition effort… though it will likely be through “dark money” groups so as to obfuscate the blatant financial nature of this effort.

    And while we’re at it, The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Business, as well as the State Republican Party have nominally exclaimed their opposition to marijuana legalization, which is a laughable and mock-worthy exercise in political back-scratching for Doug Ducey and Bill Montgomery. Robert Graham and Glenn Hamer should be ridiculed for their spineless expediency. Let’s see them put money up. Hint: They won’t, because it makes no financial sense for them whatsoever. You honestly think any businesses, aside from perhaps alcohol distributors, are willing to put money into opposing the legalization of marijuana? Why on Earth would they?

  18. The state should only legalize marijuana if it also squarely puts the onus for responsible use on the marijuana user. Marijuana use should trigger strict liability for any tort, any child endangerment, and any crime.

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