Pubdate: Mon, 15 Feb 2016
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2016 The Arizona Republic
Authors: Lisa Graham Keegan, Jaime Molera, Tom Horne, John Huppenthal
Note: Lisa Graham Keegan, Jaime Molera, Tom Horne and John Huppenthal 
are all former Arizona superintendents of public instruction.


As former Arizona superintendents of public instruction, we have 
spent our professional careers dedicated to seeking positive outcomes 
for our state's youth and its education system. Given what we know 
about the challenges involved in education reform, we are compelled 
to go on record in vociferous opposition to current efforts to 
legalize marijuana in Arizona.

Most critically, we take great exception to recent campaign efforts 
to promote legalized marijuana as a net positive benefit to education 
reform. Legalizing a drug whose dangers have become more widely known 
and documented overturns decades of prevention work in our education 
and health-care systems.

Recent studies have shown that one in six adolescents who experiment 
with marijuana will become addicted; that today's marijuana is far 
more potent and damaging than the marijuana of the past; and that 
marijuana use can lead to lower IQs, higher propensities to drop out, 
impaired cognitive function, negative changes in the brain and a rise 
in suspensions and expulsions.

By all accounts, it is bad public policy that should, and will, be 
resoundingly defeated.

Yet, proponents of marijuana legalization throw around loose dollar 
figures and argue that marijuana sales will help fund and reform 
Arizona's education system. The most generous of estimations, some 
$58 million, appears to be a tempting number.

But when Arizona spends more than $9 billion dollars a year in 
elementary and secondary education, such a figure should be seen for 
what it is: a mere drop in the bucket. The Arizona Republic editorial 
board agreed, opining that legalizing marijuana "will do no more for 
education than pulling a few coins out of the sofa cushions."

And that's not taking into account the potential costs. How much 
money will be lost due to lower test scores, increased dropouts, 
suspensions, expulsions or car accidents? It's a safe bet those costs 
would far exceed any theoretical income.

Although legalization advocates intend marijuana sales for adults 
only, there is simply no way to legalize a potent and dangerous 
substance and keep it both away from our youth and out of our 
schools. As Colorado's experience has shown, increased availability 
leads to increased use across all age levels. In Colorado, youth 
marijuana use has increased 20 percent since it was legalized and is 
now 74 percent higher than the national average. Given the problems 
associated with teen marijuana use, this data point alone should 
serve as a giant red light for Arizona voters.

At the end of the day, the very idea that Arizona can effectively 
reform education by raising minimal amounts of revenue through the 
sale of a dangerous substance that negatively impacts our students is 
wholly irresponsible. There simply is no tax high enough to offset 
the risks and expenses of making marijuana more widely available in 
our society and to our state's children.

We have dedicated large portions of our lives to improving 
educational outcomes for Arizona students, and marijuana use 
negatively affects every single one. It is a bad idea for Arizona and 
has no place in the conversation on positive education reform.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom