Legalization Props

Prop 205 moves forward despite effort to challenge initiatives

Prop 205 appears to be safe for the moment as Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry dismissed charges against its campaign last week.

Maricopa and Yavapai county attorneys Bill Montgomery and Sheila Polk were two of the major plaintiffs to file the lawsuit but were joined by the chairman of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, Seth Leibsohn and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

To nobody's surprise the plaintiffs intend to appeal the judge's decision. However, the ruling decided that not only did the opposition fail to support their claim, but that the state legislature effectively eliminated citizens' ability to legally challenge ballot initiatives, which may not bode well for the lawsuit's future.

In any case, part of the defense's argument was that the plaintiffs raised the lawsuit based on their personal ideologies. With Montgomery as an avid anti-marijuana proponent and Polk as co-chair of the ARDP, they make good case.

On its website, the ARDP has a variety of facts used to dissuade the general public against allowing marijuana to infiltrate our fragile society. They paint a pretty scary picture.

But since conventional knowledge tells us that marijuana isn't as bad as its made out to be, then there must be more to the story than what the ARDP is telling us. Let's take a look at a few of their "facts" and see how the hold up.

The ARDP website says that 30 percent of regular marijuana users suffer from "use disorder," which affects users' ability to "fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home as a result of marijuana use" according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.

While this may be true, and the dangers of such a disorder shouldn't be underestimated, what the ARDP conveniently omitted is that the same study found that marijuana use disorder has decreased from 35.6 to 30.6 percent between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.

Ironically, marijuana use has nearly doubled in that time.

On a tangential note, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health study, underage drinking has decreased in that same time period, though there is no causal link.

One of the ARDP's favorite points is that teen marijuana use in Colorado is now highest in the nation. However, this was true even before it became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.

In fact, since legalization teen use has either stagnated or declined based on a handful of studies.

Several of the points made by the ARDP are common sense knowledge packaged in a frightening context.

For example, despite a declining opinion of marijuana as a dangerous drug, the ARDP is right that marijuana is still an addictive drug. However, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that marijuana is less addictive than tobacco and alcohol.

Among users who begin use in their teen years, 32 percent developed a tobacco addiction, 15 percent developed an addiction to alcohol and only 9 percent became addicted to marijuana.

Statistics and data are often used to manipulate perspectives. However, the point that the ARDP misses isn't that marijuana can't be harmful, but that that's not a reason for it to remain illegal.

The truth in the ARDP's statements lie in the potential dangers of heavy marijuana use. Of course being constantly stoned is as dangerous as being constantly drunk. This is reflected in the groups use of statistics pertaining to workplace accidents and driving under the influence.

Never mind the fact that instances of accident are higher under the influence of alcohol in the workplace and driving, but the trick with these studies is that it is much more difficult to detect when someone is high than when someone is drunk.

Since THC has a higher longevity in the body than alcohol, statistics containing language like "accidents related to marijuana" can often be misleading since the THC detected may be attributed to use that took place several days prior.

Though we typically don't like to equate marijuana and alcohol, it is useful to compare alcohol's societal effects with the potential effects of marijuana.

That makes the ARDP's mission a bit trickier since proponents of marijuana legalization don't necessarily have to prove that marijuana isn't dangerous, just that it isn't as dangerous as alcohol and other controlled substances.

Just as alcoholics make up the vast minority of alcohol users, those who pose the dangers raised by the ARDP are the vast minority of marijuana users.

However, the beauty of living in a free country is that if someone aspires to a dysfunctional life characterized by substance abuse, that's their prerogative. We don't let the minority of abusers of alcohol, cars and religion ruin it for the rest of us, so why should marijuana be any different?

If they were to take their mission as protectors of societal purity to its philosophical conclusion, then they'd be campaigning against alcohol and tobacco use as much as they do against marijuana.

However, since they are advocating a "responsible" drug policy, perhaps their efforts would be better spent towards helping create a system of responsible use rather than prohibition.

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