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Prop 205: Smoke and mirrors


As former Superintendents of Public Instruction and lifelong education advocates, we’ve spent our careers speaking out on important issues impacting our children’s education. That means promoting good policy that aligns with our shared goal of academic excellence, and opposing bad policy that undermines our efforts and endangers our kids.

In a few weeks, Arizonans will be asked to consider Proposition 205 – the ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona.

Lisa Graham Keegan

Lisa Graham Keegan

All educators should be concerned about this campaign, and quite frankly, offended by its tactics. Concerned about the obvious ills of a proposition that would expose kids to drug use on a massive scale; offended that you, as educators, are being used as pawns to sell this bad policy to the electorate; and offended that our children are being falsely portrayed as beneficiaries of this effort, when experience tells us they will suffer.

Just look at what’s happening in Colorado:

Drug use among kids is now 74 percent higher than the national average, and Colorado ranks 1st in the nation for youth drug use. Drug-related suspensions and expulsions are at a 10-year high, with over 60 percent involving marijuana violations. Marijuana-related traffic deaths have risen 62 percent, while emergency room visits have increased 49 percent.

The pro-pot campaign aims to distract Arizona’s voters from these facts by making them buy into an oft-used tactic: It’s for the children.

But it’s not.

Jaime Molera

Jaime Molera

They would like you to believe that a vote for marijuana is a vote for more money in public education.

But it’s not.

Just ask Colorado, where many of the state’s largest school districts still haven’t seen a penny of the taxes collected on marijuana sales. Statewide, tax revenues for education are crawling in at a fraction of what taxpayers were promised.

In recent weeks, educators and elected officials in Colorado have come out in full force with a loud message for Arizona: Don’t believe the lie.

Last month, Superintendent Harry C. Bull, Jr. of Colorado’s Cherry Creek School District said it best: “So far, the only thing that the legalization of marijuana has brought to our schools has been marijuana.”

There is a lesson to be learned here: Drug money is not the answer to funding our schools.

In Arizona, we are focused on sound, stable and long-term solutions to education funding. This past May, Arizonans voted to approve a historic $3.5 billion in guaranteed dollars to K-12 schools for the next 10 years.

It’s only a first step, but it’s a bold step. The passage of Prop 123 sent a loud signal that Arizonans can come together in a spirit of innovation and bipartisanship to properly invest in education while supporting and nurturing our children.

We need more of the clear thinking that brought us 123 – because 205 is all smoke and mirrors.

Over the coming months and years, Arizonans should work together to promote stronger schools and better outcomes for our kids. Let’s start by voting “NO” on Proposition 205 this November.

Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime A. Molera are former state Superintendents of Public Instruction for the State of Arizona.


The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.


  1. It’s funny how it’s only some Arizonans (with some very funny ideas of their own regarding liberty, enterprise,responsibility and being honest) are so totally unhappy with the Colorado experience, aside from marginal religious elements and some institutional and corporate pill-popping diehards. I have yet to meet a Coloradan who’s particularly unhappy with the state of affairs following legalization in our neighbor state: usually their recountings of the local situation almost seem too relaxed to be true, given all the fear-mongering propaganda we in Arizona are fed by powerful drug (legal and illegal), lobby, church, and tobacco interests — the Guest Opinion, in this case.

    Go ask a Coloradan without political or financial interests in prohibition — one who is not a member of one of the lobbies above — how bad things are Up There. The answers may surprise you, and not in favor of Ms. Keegan and Mr. Molera. Of course that may just be because they’re former Superintendents of Public Instruction at a time when Arizonans are pretty raw about the overall declining quality of their kids’ educations, kind of an evil state mandate, which is the real issue for those concerned about our children.

  2. The only smoke and mirrors is what comes out of the Anti-Prop 205 crowd.
    My god, do they actually believe half of what they say. The statistics and testimony can all be traced to biased, paid off, web sites, or “science” that’s been purchased with Alcohol and Pharmaceutical money.
    Please check the list of Prop 205 Endorsers below:
    (See below for organizations)

    Congressman Ruben Gallego – U.S. House of Representatives
    Congressman Raul Grijalva – U.S. House of Representatives
    Sen. Martin Quezada – Arizona State Senate, Pendergast Elementary School District Governing Board
    Rep. Richard C. Andrade – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Reginald Bolding Jr. – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Mark Cardenas – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Ken Clark – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Charlene Fernandez – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Matthew Kopec – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Jonathan R. Larkin – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Stefanie Mach – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Juan Mendez – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Celeste Plumlee – Arizona House of Representatives
    Rep. Bruce Wheeler – Arizona House of Representatives
    Paul Cunningham – Tucson City Council
    Karin Uhlich – Tucson City Council
    Randy Keating – Tempe City Council
    Lauren Kuby – Tempe City Council
    Henry Wade – Maricopa City Council
    Buck Crouch – President, Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board
    Devin Del Palacio – Vice President, Tolleson Union High School District Governing Board
    Daniel Hernandez – Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board
    Channel Powe – Balsz School District Governing Board
    Stanford Prescott – Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board
    Dr. Tom Patterson – Arizona Senate Majority Leader (1993-1995), Chair of the Goldwater Institute (2000-2015), Past President of the Arizona Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians
    Woody Thomas – Past Mayor of Litchfield Park
    Alexis Tameorn – Chair, Arizona Democratic Party
    Michael Kielsky – Chair, Arizona Libertarian Party
    Dan O’Neil – State Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America
    Sonia Martinez – Past President of the Native American Bar Association of Arizona
    Dr. Jeffrey Singer – Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar, General Surgeon
    Michael Capasso – Former Special Agent and Financial Crimes Unit Chief for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
    Finn Sealander – Former Special Agent and Marijuana Coordinator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
    Arizona Democratic Party
    La Paz County Republican Committee
    Arizona Liberty Caucus
    ACLU of Arizona
    Las Adelitas Arizona
    MomForce AZ
    Arizona NORML
    Drug Policy Alliance
    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
    Marijuana Policy Project
    National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
    Students for Sensible Drug Policy

  3. We are all offended by the tactics of NO on 205 and those who support them claiming to be in education. It is upon us all to do our due diligence to learn the truth behind the headlines. Many are either ignoring facts or supporting some other agenda.
    I have learned about marijuana from my own research and the testimonies of our neighbors in Arizona over the last nine years. I have spoken with those who have lost a loved one to opiate or heroin overdose and addiction. I have talked with the veterans who are prescribed cocktails of pharmaceuticals with side effects that read “thoughts of suicide”. Twenty two a day commit suicide. We lose more soldiers to this than battle.
    I have spoken with seniors who would like to use this non lethal alternative for pain, but cannot afford the $300 charge or don’t want to use something “illegal”. We should not have to buy a license to use a less harmful substance. Opiates kill someone every twenty minutes in America, including ten kids a month in Arizona. Marijuana is cutting opiate use by 64% according to the American Journal of Pain. Please read into it, since you are an educator.
    How anyone who purports to be “for the children” can stand in the way of a non toxic alternative to the dozens of pain killer bottles in everyone’s home that lead to overdose, diversion, and addiction while taking $500,000 from the most sinister of drug companies is just beyond my comprehension.
    Offended, indeed, and at least. I am appalled at pro-life, “anti-drug” lawmakers who would support such a thing. Marijuana is the least addictive, safest substance for pain and inflammation. Everyone should be allowed access. It has never taken a life on record, and teens are using less of it than the national average because of honest education.
    Again, as educators and responsible neighbors you must look into the facts and past the headlines.

  4. Can’t believe your spouting off the same fact that the no campaign put in their ads that have already been debunked by our local tv stations. You do know that when you start out telling lies that everyone already knows are false then we won’t listen to a think you have to tell us.

  5. Voting yes we’ll put 55 million dollars possibly more into the Public School Systems that’s how to help children not by Taking Liberties away from adults. Legalize It.

  6. In Colorado, marijuana sales are helping to prevent young lives from being destroyed by alcohol and opiates. Following popular passage of the legalization initiative, CO’s Governor and Legislature responded in a positive way with School-Based Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Program (SAPI), funded in large part with taxes collected from the sale of marijuana. SAPI supports education, intervention, and treatment, provided by schools and health organizations, to discourage teenage use of marijuana, alcohol, and illicit prescription drugs.

    Though funded primarily by marijuana sales tax, SAPI’s approach is ecumenical. Objectively, it’s most important task is responding to the real threats alcohol and opiates pose to users of all ages, but especially youth. Without the prod of legalization, and several tens of millions of tax dollars not previously available, it’s unlikely that Colorado’s tax-wary politicians would have funded SAPI.

    Lastly: Keegan and Molera studiously avoid acknowledging that prohibition’s done nothing to prevent widespread use of intoxicants among young people, even the worst of them like glue, alcohol, opiates, Ecstasy, and meth. Promoting prohibition is like teaching youngsters that abstinence is the only valid birth control — which may explain why so many AZ teenagers are premature parents, and so many unintended children’s lives are blighted. This practice accelerated during Keegan and Molera’s terms as Superintendents. So now as lobbyists they’re hawking prohibition? Murphy’s Law is proved once more.

  7. Patricia Tidwell-Smith

    I’m getting tired of the scare tactics of BOTH side of the Prop 205 issue! Propoents show smiling childern (hopefully with the consent of their parents), and imply the money will be “for the schools/kids”. Should we really believe that the politiciams who eagerly line up to support Prop 205 will put ALL of the money in the schools? Remember what happened with Social Security! It went from a program that put YOUR taxes paid into an account with only YOUR name on it to being a piggy bank for politicans! That’s why every few years, the program needs to be rescued!

    Opponents of Prop 205 are no better, using the fear of cartels “who be free to sell to our kids anyway”. I see NO evidence of additional enforcemet, discouraging drug use, or reabilitating those already trapped in drug use! Their ads make them sound like they WORK for the cartels, who are afraid of competion!

    Stop the scare tactics, and let’s find a system that works!

  8. This article is disgusting. Filled with nothing but 100% absolute lies, exaggerations, and scare tactics. Your biggest problem is that you’re busted. Everybody already knows you’re lying. So the more you continue to use these same lies as the only support for your nonsensical argument, the more you encourage people to vote in your opposition. The only real reason out there for opposing this legislation is because things would be different than they are now. Unfortunately, that’s what generally happens when legislation is passed – not much of an argument, I’m afraid. We have had record numbers of new voters registered this election season, and it’s not to help you fight the liar’s war on marijuana. It’s not so that we can rewind our thinking and set our legislation back to the 1970’s. Get with the program, lady. If your position is indefensible, than just drop it….don’t make things up and try to play Arizonans for fools. I recommend finding a new battle to fight. Because logic and truth have already prevailed here.

  9. Marijuana is a drug just like alcohol is a drug. Excessive use of any drug causes problems.
    Arizona was tied for the fourth-highest rate of alcohol-related deaths and they want to legalize another drug that can cause just as many problems if to more?
    I find it revolting that this group who supports 205 are using our children as the benefactors of legalizing another drug.
    We have no idea what the long term benefits or drawbacks we will face in the far future if this is legalized.
    I have friends in Colorado and all of them have expressed the problems of legalization of this drug that they have experience in the conception of legalization ,they fear that there are more problems coming and the cost of this will far out weight the benefits they have yet to see,
    Additionally , the commercial where the veteran is stating he needs marijuana for his PTSD, last I checked medical marijuana is legal in AZ, The commercial makes no sense .

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