Pubdate: Sun, 22 Sep 2013
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2013 The Arizona Republic
Author: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez



A national marijuana-advocacy group has announced that it will push 
to ask Arizona voters in 2016 if they want to legalize pot for adult 
recreational use.

A grass-roots effort, led by a Phoenix man, would ask voters to amend 
the state Constitution to allow people age 18 and older "to consume 
or possess limited amounts" of marijuana. But the local effort has 
largely been discounted by the political establishment because it 
lacks major financial backing.

But the announcement by the powerful Marijuana Policy Project has 
triggered a true debate about whether Arizona should join Colorado 
and Washington in legalizing the drug.

While many advocates of legalized marijuana are cheering the news, 
opponents are decrying it, saying legalization of pot would be a 
public-safety disaster. The Arizona Republic asked people on both 
sides of the debate - Phoenix Relief Center co-owner Gino Lucadamo 
and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery - to offer their 
opinions on whether marijuana should be legalized for recreational 
use in Arizona. Their responses have been edited for grammar and space.

PRO | Phoenix Relief Center co-owner Gino Lucadamo

Question: Why are you for the legalization of the recreational use of 
marijuana in Arizona?

Answer: We 100 percent support (Proposition) 203 (the 
medical-marijuana law) and Arizonans' decision to allow adults the 
(right to) choose medical cannabis as a method of treatment. I would 
be very pleased to see Arizona follow the lead of Colorado and 
Washington in their decriminalization efforts of a substance that has 
proven time and time again to be much safer than caffeine, and much 
less addictive than alcohol, as well as the majority of prescription 
medications that are heaved upon us by Big Pharma and the alcohol 
industry. The bottom line: As adults, they should have the right to choose.

I think also that if cannabis were decriminalized, it would bring a 
halt to the illegal "underground" scene where Mexican marijuana is 
the norm and the only people benefiting from it are the Mexican 
cartels. The fact is, Mexican marijuana is extremely available on the 
streets, and has been for many, many years. This is largely due to 
prohibition that keeps the cartels in business. The cartels are the 
last ones that want to see decriminalization. They are making a 
killing off of street sales. The answer is to stop wasting money on a 
drug war - it's not working.

Q: How will you support the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona?

A: By providing a very safe, clean and professional environment where 
patients can have safe access to their medication. We will continue 
to drive on as the Valley's leading dispensary that caters to 
veterans care, with an emphasis on veterans.

Q: How would adults' easy access to recreational use in marijuana 
affect the general public?

A: I see this as an issue of individual responsibility. The same way 
it is an adults' individual responsibility to consume any substance 
responsibly. Driving under the influence, for example is inexcusable, 
be it alcohol, Vicodin or cannabis. An adult that is taking on the 
responsibility to ingest any substance that is altering to body or 
mind inherently also accepts the burden of ones on actions and behavior.

The biggest impact I can see however is a positive one. Think about 
how many people die each year of alcohol abuse -and even more, the 
physical effects that come along with it. No one has ever died from 
cannabis. Moreover, allowing adult use will allow marijuana sales to 
be taxed with many of millions of dollars to fund our communities, 
this will create thousands of good-paying jobs that are very much 
needed in our state.

Q: If pot becomes legal for adults, how should schools and 
community-prevention programs adapt messages to prevent children from 
using the drug?

A: I think my colleague Ken Sobel of the Green Halo in Tucson put it 
best when he said, "With the billions we save from wasting tax 
dollars on the war on drugs and the billions more we earn in taxes, 
we can redouble our efforts to ensure that kids don't get marijuana 
without a qualified medical recommendation, and increase funding for 
the 9 percent of Americans who may have some dependency issues."

As a former (Los Angeles) police chief points out, it is far easier 
for a high-school student to get marijuana ... than it is to get 
alcohol. That is why thousands of former judges, prosecutors and cops 
support initiatives to regulate and tax marijuana like beer and wine.

CON | Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery

Q: Why are you against the legalization of the recreational use of 
marijuana in Arizona?

A: There is no good reason for our society to encourage people to 
recreationally use marijuana. There is no positive societal benefit. 
There is no positive physical benefit from recreational use.

Additionally, we know what the societal costs are of the abuse of 
current legal substances, such as tobacco and alcohol. Therefore, it 
is ridiculous to approve one more substance where the abuse is going 
to cost us in lost productivity, in increased addiction, and in 
increased use among our youth. If you consider the permissive use of 
tobacco and alcohol a shot in each foot, then approving the 
recreational use of another drug is one more shot. But since we've 
run out of feet, it will be to our collective head. Why we would want 
to deliberately encourage the use of a substance that will negatively 
impact our society is beyond any rational explanation.

Q: How will you oppose the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona?

A: With the exercise of the First Amendment. Through efforts to 
educate the public about the true risks, including the risks of 
addiction, of marijuana today. Marijuana is not harmless. With 
increasing concentrations of THC, research shows long-term harm 
reflected in studies that indicate that chronic use by teens can 
result in early onset of mental-health issues such as schizophrenia 
that they otherwise would not see until maybe their mid-20s or at all.

Q: How would adults' easy access to recreational use in marijuana 
affect the general public?

A: Through an increase in the number of impaired drivers who hurt and 
kill people, lost productivity at work and increased health-care 
costs. Additionally, we will see increasing use among youth despite 
all of the money spent over the last decade to stem drug use.

Q: If pot becomes legal for adults, how should schools and 
community-prevention programs adapt messages to prevent children from 
using the drug?

A: All those efforts go out the window. You will have, as we're 
already seeing, an increased use among youth just with so-called 
medical-marijuana programs. We're wasting what was a generational 
effort to convince youth to not make decisions now that would affect 
their ability to have happy and productive lives later. You can't 
have a message that says, "OK, we've been telling you all along that 
drugs are bad. But they're only bad if you're younger than 21.
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