Is Arizona Ready to Embrace Legalizing Marijuana?

Marijuana is often nostalgic of the sixties, conjuring visions of a joint being passed around and the munchies sensation that follows. Marijuana is often perceived as a mechanism for a good time.

However, that nostalgic view of marijuana could not be further from the issues that Arizonans face as they deliberate Arizona’s Proposition 205. Proponents of the proposition, like Carlos Alfaro, point out that this proposition, should it pass, expands personal liberty. On the other side of the argument opponents of Prop 205, like Sally Schindel, argue that marijuana is not safe and that the proposition expands the size of government in the state of Arizona by creating a new regulatory agency. These are just some of the many contentions that each side is arguing in their goal to pass/ strike down the proposition to legalize recreational marijuana in the state of Arizona.

Sally Schindel, an opponent of Prop 205, has been victimized by marijuana and seeks to protect others from the same type of devastation. Two years ago Schindel’s son committed suicide. Schindel contributes her son’s tragic suicide to mental illness caused by her son’s marijuana usage. Schindel asserts that marijuana is no longer the drug of the sixties with only 1-3% THC level, marijuana has become an increasingly dangerous drug. Shindle’s research on the drug leads her to the realization that marijuana is in fact dangerous, that it causes psychosis and bouts of depression, hardly the “less harmful than alcohol” substance that proponents of Prop 205 claim marijuana to be. A common concern of skeptics and opponents of Prop 205 often tout that recreational marijuana is market as edibles to appeal to a younger market, and while Prop 205 only recreationally legalizes marijuana for people who are 21 years of age or older, nothing is stopping the underage crowd from being drawn to these types of edibles.

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Dr. Michael Ward, an active member of our military, raises concern over the way that Prop 205 is being marketed to voters on TV. In Arizona, it is almost impossible to turn on the TV without coming across an ad for/against Prop 205. As a Colonel in the Air force, one ad is particularly puzzling to Dr. Ward; an ad that features a vet suffering with PTSD. The vet’s plea is that Arizonans pass Prop 205 so he can use marijuana to cope with his illness. What Ward and Schindel both raise concerns over is that this is being incorrectly marketed to voters. Schindel argues that the vet in the ad, and any vet in the state of Arizona can be qualified by their doctors to receive a medical marijuana card. Prop 205 would only help vets in the sense that they would no longer need to be medically qualified in order to receive marijuana. Regardless of the deceitful marketing and misconceptions about the proposition that Schindel claims exist, she continues to march forward and advocate that voters do not pass Prop 205, hanging on to and driven by the words in her son’s suicide letter:

“My soul was already dead. Marijuana killed my soul”.

Carlos Alfaro, a proponent of and staff member of the Yes on 205 campaign, argues that after 79 years of marijuana prohibition it is finally time to legalize the drug recreationally. Alfaro claims that the passing of Prop 205 would lead to extended individual liberty for Arizonans through the promotion of regulated businesses over cartels. While many are concerned that Prop 205 does just the opposite, expanding the size of government in Arizona, rather than extending individual liberty, Alfaro engages parallel reasoning to help others understand that nature of the expansion in government. While Alfaro does concede that a new regulatory board, expanding the size of government, he reasons that this is a situation no different than alcohol regulation. Alfaro asserts that a regulatory board is a necessary component to legalization, as marijuana is a psycho-active drug, and that the taxes that come from regulation will benefit public education. Alfaro claims that the creation of the marijuana regulatory board would do nothing more than create standards and promote free markets. Additionally, Alfaro asserts that the legalization of recreational marijuana would help reduce the number of arrests and felonies that come from the possession of marijuana; a number that Alfaro suggests is currently too high.

The debate over the legalization of recreational marijuana is charged with emotions and high stakes claims from both sides of the argument. Regardless of what the voters decide, people from both sides of the coin will be watching, waiting for the manifestation of their fears- whether that be the fear of misuse or the fear of individual liberty being contracted. Arizonans have a very important and exceedingly tough decision to make this year. However, if the Proposition were to fail, I doubt it will be the last time that Arizona sees a ballot initiative for the legalization of recreational marijuana. So the choice may not be yes or no, it may in fact be:

Is this when, how, and why we want to do it.

Dr. Kelli Ward and Taylor Hubbs

Dr. Kelli Ward has lived in Arizona since 1999. She is a military wife, the mom of three awesome children (now young adults), a family physician, a business owner, a former AZ State Senator, and she ran for the US Senate in 2016 against John McCain. Taylor Hubbs is currently a senior at the University of Arizona studying Public Management and Policy. Fluent in sarcasm and a carb enthusiast, Taylor enjoys being the outspoken Republican in her classes full of Liberals.

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