Pubdate: Thu, 11 Aug 2016
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2016 The Arizona Republic
Author: J.P. Holyoak
Note: J.P. Holyoak is chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana 
Like Alcohol.


Last summer, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol set out 
to place an initiative on the presidential election ballot that would 
end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in Arizona. Now that 
it is poised to qualify, our campaign begins in earnest.

Over the next few months, we will inform voters about the many 
benefits of replacing the criminal market with a tightly controlled 
legal market.

We will detail the public-safety benefits of moving marijuana 
production and sales out of basements and back alleys and into 
secured facilities. We will describe the public-health benefits of 
replacing illegal dealers with licensed stores that test and label 
products, ask customers for ID, and only sell to adults.

And we will highlight the economic benefits of a legitimate marijuana 
industry that creates jobs and generates tens of millions of dollars 
in annual tax revenue.

Illegal marijuana sales have enriched drug cartels and contributed to 
street violence for decades. This criminal market will dissipate once 
adults are able to purchase safe products in a safe environment. It 
has only been a few years since Colorado voted to regulate marijuana 
like alcohol, and according to a report in The Economist, state 
officials estimate licensed sales are already meeting 70 percent of 
demand, with legally home-grown marijuana covering much of the rest.

It appears to be having a significant impact on the cartels. The 
Mexican Competitiveness Institute estimated that passage of the 
Colorado law and similar measures in Washington and Oregon could cost 
the cartels as much as 30 percent of their earnings from U.S. 
marijuana trafficking.

Not surprisingly, Mexican and U.S. officials have been reporting 
fewer seizures of marijuana on the border, and there was a 31 percent 
drop in overall homicides in Mexico from 2011 to 2014.

Another goal of our initiative is to keep marijuana out of the hands 
of teens, and there is no better way to do that than to take sales 
out of the underground market. It will never be possible to fully 
eliminate teen marijuana use, but regulation could reduce it.

In June, Colorado public-health officials announced that rates of 
teen marijuana use were actually slightly lower in 2015 than they 
were in 2011, the year before marijuana became legal for adults. They 
also came in below the national average that was reported earlier 
that month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although it is not the primary goal of the initiative, it is worth 
noting that it will generate some much-needed revenue for our state.

The Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates it will 
produce more than $120 million in annual tax revenue within the first 
two years of implementation, including approximately $60 million per 
year for K-12 education. And by 2020, about $500 million in marijuana 
sales will be occurring in regulated stores rather than the underground market.

With so much money being taken out of the pockets of cartels and 
criminals, you would think they'd be lining up to oppose the 
initiative. Yet, for some reason, it is law-enforcement officials the 
likes of county attorneys Sheila Polk and Bill Montgomery who are 
leading the fight to keep the revenue flowing into the criminal 
market instead of state coffers.

This next few months, our campaign will engage these opponents and 
others in a robust debate. We will stick to the facts, and we hope 
our opponents won't stray too far from them.

In either case, we are confident that the values our initiative 
represents - individual freedom, personal responsibility, common 
sense, and the common good - will trump the antiquated ideology of 
marijuana prohibition.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom