AZ: What Marijuana Legalization Is Really About


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.

Goal 1: Curb the drug cartels

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.

Goal 2: Keep pot out of teens’ hands

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 it appears that 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.

Goal 3: Generate cash for Arizona

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.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: What Marijuana Legalization Is Really About
Author: J.P. Holyoak
Contact: 602-444-8000
Photo Credit: Rob Schumacher
Website: The Arizona Republic