AZ: Marijuana Legalization Discussion Comes To ASU Law School


Community members gathered at the Beus Center for Law and Society building Tuesday for an Issues & Answers Forum regarding Proposition 205, which would legalize marijuana in Arizona.

The panel included two national experts, who supplied information, and two Arizonans, one arguing for legalization and one arguing against legalization. The goal of the forum was to facilitate a fact-based discussion to help voters become better informed before entering the voting booth on November 8.

“The event gave me greater information,” attendee Misty Farrow said. “When I came, up to that point all I had was my own personal experience and values. I wanted to expand on that and gain facts. I viewed it as a fact-finding mission.”

The panelists started the discussion with a general overview of the amendment, citing similarities between Arizona’s proposition and the law Colorado passed in 2012.

Marijuana Policy Project Campaign Chairman J.P. Holyoak, a proponent of Proposition 205, said the purpose of the proposed initiative is to provide a better alternative to prohibition, which he said is not effective, adding it does not make sense for a substance safer than alcohol to be illegal.

“We don’t think adults should be punished for consuming alcohol and we don’t think adults should be criminalized for smoking marijuana,” Holyoak said.

Mark Kleiman, director of the Crime and Justice program at NYU’s Marron Institute, said that marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol, but it’s hard to tell because oftentimes people use both alcohol and marijuana at the same time.

The forum then dove into the controversies regarding legalization, focusing on youth abuse, THC concentration and taxation of the substance.

The panelists speculated about the effects of legalization in Arizona and discussed the impact of legalization in Colorado. Ashley Kilroy, executive director of marijuana policy for the city and county of Denver, said it was still too early to gauge the impact of legalization in regards to youth abuse, crime rates and other issues in Colorado, meaning it is hard to determine how the proposition will affect Arizona.

Arizona is also starting in a different position than Washington and Colorado. Both of these states legalized medicinal marijuana before fully legalizing the substance. Arizona’s law is more strict than those in Colorado and Washington, only allowing for a certain list of serious illnesses such as hepatitis C, cancer and glaucoma. According to an azcentral article from October 2010, when medical marijuana was a ballot proposition, additional diseases could be added to the list through a public-petition process.

“Arizona is not starting in the same place so I wouldn’t expect the same change,” Kleiman said.

There was no consensus reached on a multitude of issues, including legalized marijuana’s impact on youth use or crime rates as well as the effectiveness of taxation and THC regulations. Kleiman said legalization helped drive the illegal market out of business and said people seem to be substituting marijuana for opioids.

A possible decrease in opioid abuse is a deciding factor for Farrow as she decides how she will vote.

“Opioid use declining is a really important factor for me because I know opioid abuse is off the rails in this country,” Farrow said. “I will definitely take that into consideration when I go vote in November. If I were to vote in favor that would be the greatest factor (influencing my decision).”

This September 13 discussion is a part of an ongoing series by the Sandra Day O‘Connor Institute in collaboration with ASU’s Sandra Day O‘Connor College of Law, ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Maricopa County Bar Association to provide factual information to voters regarding issues on the November 8 ballot.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Marijuana Legalization Discussion Comes To ASU Law School
Author: Stephanie Morse
Contact: (602) 688-9610
Photo Credit: Stephanie Morse
Website: Downtown Devil