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Kill proposed marijuana measures and shut gateway to drug abuse


Three petition drives are underway in Arizona to legalize recreational marijuana. They should all fail. Marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to greater social and criminal problems.

I speak from a wide swath of experience.

I grew up playing golf, surfing, going to the University of Arizona to play football and study finance. My first job out of college was as a Wall Street stock options trader, where I earned enough to leave the business at the age of 29. Life was good.

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

Five years later, I was living in a bush in south Phoenix.

Marijuana, pain killers and cocaine wiped out my bank account. I turned to burglary to feed my habit and ended up behind bars six times. My life did not turn around until a judge sent me to a Salvation Army drug treatment program. I broke my addiction, earned a teaching accreditation and went to work for the Salvation Army. Today, I chair the board.

I’m also the community liaison for Sage Counseling, which provides outpatient drug treatment via the criminal justice system.

So I’ve seen what drugs do first-hand. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “I wish I’d never smoked that first joint,” I’d be as well off as I was in my Wall Street days. Marijuana is the first step to deeper and deeper addictions.

It’s particularly acute among those who are sensitive to the woes of the world. They mourn strongly everything from the loss of a close relative to distant events like the massacre in Las Vegas. Smoking weed makes it easier to cope, so every bump in the road becomes a reason to light up. And when marijuana isn’t enough, they move on to other drugs.

That was me. I had to rewire my brain to learn how to deal with problems in a positive way instead of medicating them away.

Knowing this, why would we want to make marijuana more available?

Marijuana also takes away motivation. If, as parents, we’re pressing our teen children to work hard in school, marijuana cancels us out. The teen brain is already strange enough without tossing in a powerful drug like marijuana.

It’s the same for someone trying to work their way out of homelessness, which requires a great deal of effort and motivation. If they’re using marijuana, a drug that says it’s OK to do nothing all day, they lose their motivation to land a place of their own. Pot tells them their life is great as they hold a scribbled sign on a street corner.

The Salvation Army operates a homeless shelter in Denver. It was averaging about 180 people a night. After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, the nightly head count jumped to between 500 and 600.

At first we assumed these were out-of-state newcomers, lured by legal marijuana. We were wrong. A recent study found the newly homeless are mostly Colorado residents, and they are all ages. They lost their housing after becoming addicted to marijuana that is far more powerful than baby boomers and Generation X experienced. It has been cultivated to drive sales, and the only way to do that is to make it stronger and more addictive.

Marijuana has done enough damage. We don’t need to make it more available in Arizona.

However heartwarming my story may be, I wish I had never smoked that first joint. I wish I had never let it lead me to more powerful drugs. And I wish I had never fallen into sleeping under a bush.

I don’t want to see any other Arizonan follow in those footsteps.

— Jeff Taylor is chairman of the Phoenix Salvation Army Advisory Board and an appointee to Gov. Doug Ducey’s Substance Abuse Task Force.


  1. The truth about Colorado
    By Sal Pace
    June 26, 2017

    You see, the day before my constituent’s opinion piece was published in Vermont, I stood in front of the Pueblo County Courthouse and handed out scholarship certificates to 210 recent high school graduates to attend a local college of their choice. These scholarships were funded from the excise tax placed on the cultivation of cannabis in our community. Kids were dressed in their finest clothes, parents flashed their cameras and everyone in attendance was glowing. Today in Pueblo County, every high school senior is guaranteed a scholarship to a local college, if they opt in, because of the legalization of adult-use cannabis. In Colorado, the state is generating $200 million in tax revenues annually from marijuana tax revenues. In fact, the General Assembly just increased marijuana taxes temporarily to fill a funding gap in the state budget.

    Pueblo County has historically been poorer than the rest of the state. We’ve faced rampant unemployment since the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company shut its steel factory doors in the 1980s. Before legalization of marijuana, our unemployment rate was mired above 12 percent. Today, we sit at 3.2 percent unemployment and we have more Puebloans employed than ever in our history. The construction market is booming because 50 percent of all construction projects are directly attributed to cannabis projects. We’ve seen well over $100 million in outside capital investment into our economy, and we are exporting $50 million annually of marijuana products to communities mostly around the Denver metro area of the state. Our local university has gotten into the mix. We created the Institute of Cannabis Research at CSU-Pueblo, which is the first multidisciplinary research program of its kind at an accredited university. There are literally three dozen doctorate degree holders studying cannabis science, medicine and social impacts.

  2. While m.j. was illegal, we had the great cocaine epidemic, that only lost emphasis due to the great opioid epidemic.. The “drug war” has done as much harm to this country as any other misguided policy. In the 70s I was involved in NORML. We compared m.j. laws to alcohol prohibition, claiming that one main result is putting money in the hands of criminals/gangsters. We were right. The original cocaine cartels got their money and infrastructure from smuggling m.j. The second problem with m.j. prohibition is that it does not come from either acceptance or rejection of medical/recreational m.j. It comes from declining education, decimated family structures, constant, uncensored media access to our children’s minds. These problems are not discussed because too many people rich people are getting richer under this system, and we would have to change too much to make a difference. Now, I’m not in favor of recreational m.j., but the legal approach serves the purpose of letting us think we are doing something about the problem, when we are not.

  3. Jeff, so sorry you had that life experience and very proud of you for taking your life back. However, legalizing marijuana does not create more drug users. People who want to smoke marijuana will smoke it anyway, since it is so readily available. Making it legal (with controls similar to alcohol) simply means they will be buying it legally from American farmers instead of from Mexican drug lords. It also means it can be taxed heavily and still be sold below current market for Mexican marijuana. This will reduce the need for more taxes in other areas, provide funds for helping addicts recover, greatly reduce the illegal activity on our boarder with Mexico and provide many jobs in Arizona. You cannot legislate people into behaving.
    While I don’t partake of marijuana myself, I strongly support decriminalizing recreational marijuana.

  4. Marijuana is not a gateway drug to opioid drugs, only an opioid drug can be a gateway to harder opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl. There is no corrorlation between the use of marijuana and opioid drugs, but there is plenty of evidence supporting that legal prescription opioid drugs being used as a gateway because when they are withdrawn by a doctor or if the effectiveness of the drug has decreased because of the body’s increased tolerance a higher or stronger drug will be used and a higher case has opened for an overdose. With marijuana, there has never been an overdose and the CBD component of the plant has healing properties that are not as addicting as opioid drugs.

  5. Your story is inspiring, and you are the best witness to about the dangers of distibuting another disabling chemical that endangers public health and society.

  6. You decided to retire at 29 and five years later you were living in a bush and that’s because of marijuana? That just doesn’t make any sense. Now your​ livelihood depends on keeping marijuana illegal. Now things are starting to make more sense. It sounds like you’re worried about ending up in a bush again. Who cares? Marijuana should be legal. It is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Freedom means giving adults the right to make choices for themselves and not locking people up for victimless crimes. Prescription pills and Tylenol are more dangerous than marijuana. Stop with the fearmongering and promotion of tyrrany.

  7. Marijuana is not the problem! Your choices are and your other drug uses. People are crazy to listen to you and believe it.

  8. The federal government has no Constitutional authority to tell us what we can or cannot put into our own bodies. The unconstitutional “war on drugs” has cost billions of dollars, tens of thousands of lives on both sides of the “war,” created entire new criminal cartels, and done absolutely nothing to prevent the use of drugs—the serious narcotic addiction rate in the year 2000 was virtually unchanged from that in 1900 at about 2.5%. The drug pusher your grand parents used was Walgreens and they had cocaine in their sodas, yet the societal impact was about the same as it is now.

  9. Marijuana didn’t do that to you, your own “sensitivity to the woes of the world” did it to you. You were looking for escape, marijuana was a step you could have skipped and still wound up an opiod addict. Making MJ illegal does nothing to stop people from smoking it, it just ramps up the cartels’ profits. Elsewhere in the e-edition here Andy Gordon says “We also see a steady decline in border-related drug violence. Again, to some extent this is surely a tribute to increased border enforcement. But, another equally large factor may be increased legalization of marijuana in the U.S. According to several recent articles and studies, the illegal marijuana trade from Mexico to the U.S. is dropping annually at a rate of about 30 percent, and there has been a corresponding decrease in drug-related murders. According to a former U.S. drug czar, marijuana accounts for more than 60 percent of the illegal drug sales from Mexico into the U.S. As he said, “the vast majority of [Mexican drug cartel] money to buy guns, bribe, corrupt and destroy lives is from marijuana.” So Jeff, which is it?

  10. Jeff – Just because you have an addictive personality doesn’t mean the rest of us do. You didn’t end up on the street because of marijuana but because of some other psychological issue. You had to be in tremendous pain to succumb to opiates and other hard drugs. I’ve had enough post-surgical opiates to know that they are a different animal. Nothing like MJ. In my case, I can only take them for a few days before feeling toxic. So they sit there unused. MJ does not produce any feeling like that. And it works for pain. I agree with Benny Freeman – Stop this nonsense. Mind your own business. Don’t preach to us. Worry about yourself, not us. We’re doing just fine with our MJ.

  11. Jeff, your Reagan-era views on cannabis ( I do not use the term marijuana as it is racist and was given credence by Harry Anslinger ) have been disproved repeatedly. You state as facts many issues which have already been proven to be false.
    There will always be humans that take an extra step in the wrong direction; to state this is a quality of all humans is extremely short sighted.
    Cannabis, as a choice for intoxication, is far, far safer than ALL of the choices now available for legal consumption.

  12. Wow, such an intriguing story…you did not “say no to drugs” and yet put it out there as an effective measure to prevent future abuse…I said no to drugs and still see the people that did not “say no to drugs gain more economic benefit for doing so…IE. drug rehab programs, DEA task forces, overdose treatment… that such people as yourself was thankfully able to take advantage of from the backs of us law abiding tax paying citizens struggling to pick up what ever is left over from the criminal activities associated with drug abuse. Not only that, I have to watch you point your finger to something that you yourself was fully warned not to do, drugs were illegal and that should have been enough for you to not do them. It was for me… why not you? Sure the overwhelming majority of my friends did not “say no to drugs” have/had the same issue. When it comes to drug addiction…. use the same logic as the N.R.A and Guns, “Guns do not kill People…People Kill People”, those guns did not pick them selves up and fire off a round… some one had to come along and pull the trigger… To break the law!!!

    Marijuana as a “gateway drug” is similar to attesting that a butter knife is a “Gateway weapon” to W.M.Ds.
    because Kim Jong UN in all infinite wisdom would have never progressed to be such a threatening individual had he not been introduced to the easy ability to cut himself of a delicious “pat-o-butter” to spread on his toast. Maybe instead he should have been nannied into grabbing the whole stick and smeering it on his toast. How dare he be introduced to the proper intended use of a utensil or “tool” because later in life it will open the gates to a much more sophisticated “tool”… because buttered bread just doesn’t satisfy his addiction to savagery anymore.

    Is water a “gateway liquid”? Cause if I was not given that cool satisfying drink on any given hot summer day of work that I was slaving myself away at in the cornfields of central Illinois at the age of Eleven!!! paying my taxes and hearing “just say No” drug adds blaring on the work bus radio during my short breaks in between wiping the “corn cuts” off my cheeks with my torn-up sweaty blood soaked red bandanna shaking my head at the “losers” over in the shade smoking a little “cheeba” to get high before having to go back onto the dreaded muggy *** muddy corn field for another 2 miles of punishment at the generous minimum wage rate of $3.75 an hour. Because it Could lead to an addiction to alcohol, I would have died of dehydration, which is exactly what I wish now. I suffer from a life time of scars from hard work and dedication to my life, a life filled with pain from scumbags that could not choose a moral path in their younger life and then point their finger at something or someone else to relieve personal regret or guilt. You screwed yourself big time, and by some grace of God found yourself immersed in this issue as something personally scarring…stop pointing your damn finger around and gain some damn knowledge and hopefully develop it into wisdom…

  13. In my youth, I did all the stuff you mentioned you did in yours and more. But never have drugs/mj interfered with my professional life as they did yours. Now I just have a few beers, none of that other stuff. Please don’t expand your personal history with drugs onto others. Legal marijuana could pour a lot of money into state coffers to do a lot of good for children and for folks who do have problems coping the drugs. Besides that, it’s the future. AZ is bounded by CA and CO which have lifted restrictions on marijuana. AZ should follow suit.

  14. “I speak from a wide swath of experience.

    I grew up playing golf, surfing, going to the University of Arizona to play football and study finance. My first job out of college was as a Wall Street stock options trader, where I earned enough to leave the business at the age of 29.”

    I don’t think your “wide swath of experience” is quite as wide as you think it is. Sounds like someone had a lot of $$$ and got bored. IMO

  15. That Ducey sure knows how to pick ’em, don’t he? Putting a serial con man — who, like most con men, cons himself — on his Drug Abuse Task Force? The Governor should take some lessons in resisting gateway cons.

    Drain the swamp, Doug. No more self-serving fake moralists working for pseudo-religious charities or on the public payroll, double-please!

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Arizona’s politics is so divisive that families tiptoe around the subject until they barely speak, old friends don’t connect because discussing what is going on in the world is off the table for comment, neighbors are careful not to say the word Republican or Democrat, and new acquaintances are welcome if they have your same political philosophy.