Pubdate: Tue, 01 Nov 2016
Source: Arizona Daily Sun (AZ)
Copyright: 2016 Arizona Daily Sun
Author: Greg Vigdor and Robin Schaeffer


There's at least one issue on Arizona's General Election ballot that
crosses political and partisan lines -public health. All Arizonans,
regardless of our stance on just about any other issue, can agree
public health and safety are paramount to our wellbeing, productivity
and quality of life.

That's why, as two of Arizona's leading health and healthcare
organizations, we've come together to oppose Proposition 205, the
initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. For
hospitals and health professionals across our state, the issue comes
down to this: Our mission is to help patients and protect public
health. Prop 205 does neither.

In fact, the evidence and experience in other states suggests strongly
that marijuana legalization would only exacerbate Arizona's existing
public-health problems. The picture in states like Colorado that have
already legalized marijuana is bleak: More marijuana-related
hospitalizations. Greater access to and usage of pot among teens.
Increased accidental poisonings of children. Higher rates of
marijuana-related DUIs and traffic fatalities.

Already, marijuana is the 2nd leading substance for which people
receive drug treatment, and a major cause for visits to hospital
emergency rooms. Federal research indicates that legalization and
increased availability will lead to expanded use of marijuana -
compounding its ramifications.

Is that what we want for Arizona?

Perhaps even worse is all that we don't know about the risks of
legalizing marijuana. For example: if a pregnant woman uses marijuana,
it is unclear how the drug may impact prenatal brain development.
Additionally, some research has suggested THC - the primary
psychoactive ingredient in marijuana - can pass from nursing mothers
to their baby. We don't yet know what that means for the child.

As health professionals, we believe in research and sound evidence.
The simple fact is, voters don't have enough of either in order to
make an informed decision about marijuana legalization.

Arizonans should just say "NO" to those who want our state to
volunteer itself for this statewide drug experiment.

The safest course of action is to wait and watch. Before long, we will
know the full range of impacts in states such as Colorado and
Washington that have already legalized recreational marijuana - and
Arizona voters will have the ability to make a fully-informed decision.

In the meantime, Arizona faces real and mounting public health
challenges. There are the high-profile threats posed by communicable
diseases, like Zika, as well as the ongoing struggles with heart
disease, cancer and other ailments. Chronic shortages among physicians
and nurses each loom in the near future for our growing state.

Needless to say, Arizona communities and families already struggle
with the devastation of substance abuse. Expanding access to a
dangerous drug like marijuana will only put more Arizonans at risk.

This November, please join us in voting "NO" on Prop

Greg Vigdor is President/CEO of the Arizona Hospital & Healthcare
Association. Robin Schaeffer is Executive Director of the Arizona
Nurses Association.
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