Pubdate: Tue, 04 Mar 2014
Source: Daily Courier (Prescott, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 Prescott Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Joanna Dodder Nellans


Joining the effort to try to head off a planned 2016 initiative to
legalize marijuana in Arizona, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors
unanimously approved a resolution Monday opposing the legalization of

The county is the second local government to sign on to the
resolution, after the Prescott Valley Town Council. By getting
signatures of governments throughout the state, the local MatForce
coalition against drug abuse seeks to send a message that the
initiative petition drive isn't welcome here.

"We need to make ourselves a hard target for the Marijuana Policy
Project," Yavapai County Attorney and MatForce co-chair Sheila Polk
told the supervisors.

"We are about to take on our biggest challenge," MatForce Director
Merilee Fowler said of her group. "The reason is, we care about our

The Marijuana Policy Project plans to organize a petition drive to get
a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot, its Communications
Director Mason Tvert said over the phone from the group's Denver
headquarters. The same group organized the successful drive for
legalized medical marijuana here.

The MatForce resolution says teen use of marijuana is on the rise in
Arizona since 2007, and 2012 was the first time in state history that
teens smoked more pot than cigarettes over the previous 30 days.

Another 32,000 teens would be more likely to smoke marijuana if it was
legal, the resolution adds. Polk said that estimate comes from an
Arizona Criminal Justice Commission analysis of statistics from a
Partnership for a Drug-Free America (now The Partnership at annual attitude tracking survey.

Marijuana harms adolescent brains and can cause a drop in IQ, the
resolution adds.

While the supervisors approved the resolution without much comment
(Supervisor Jack Brown was absent), plenty of supporters and a few
opponents stood up to talk from the audience. Some had relevant
personal stories.

"Marijuana was a gateway drug for me," said Bill Orizk, who works at a
local recovery home. "It led me to many addictions throughout my life."

Supervisor Craig Brown agreed it is a gateway drug, saying he has a
sibling who was addicted to heroin and started with marijuana and

Greg Mengarelli said he's seen the negative effects of marijuana on
his foster children over the years, too.

"It does break up families," said Rachel Montagne, a county juvenile
probation worker who said many of her family members are addicts.

While a dozen people spoke in support of the resolution, two spoke
against it.

"I was hoping the board would consider all sides of this issue," said
Starr Bennett, calling herself a 64-year-old medical marijuana
cardholder from Paulden who was unjustly charged with marijuana felonies.

Pamela Shepherd of Paulden questioned whether the supervisors were
speaking for their citizens when even U.S. Sen. John McCain said it
might be time to legalize marijuana. McCain reportedly told the Daily
Star in Tucson, "Maybe we should legalize. We're certainly moving that
way as far as marijuana is concerned. I respect the will of the people."

The latest Gallup poll reported in October that 58 percent of U.S.
adults support legalization, an increase of 10 percent over the
previous year.

The Marijuana Policy Project plans to help organize 2016 ballot
petition drives in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana and
Nevada, too, Tvert said.

"It's clear the majority of voters in these states think it's time to
end marijuana prohibition," and stop spending money to prosecute
people, he said.

Sheriff Scott Mascher noted that law enforcement officers take oaths
to uphold the law, and marijuana would remain illegal under federal
law no matter what Arizona does.

"That creates an issue for us," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt