Originally Published: October 26, 2016 5:59 a.m.
Recently, a friend of mine who served on a jury in Yavapai County heard a case in which a young man who was a medical marijuana user was stopped for speeding. He had marijuana in his pocket and a pipe for future use. He was delivering pizzas that evening. There was no evidence that he was impaired, and as anyone knowledgeable on the subject will tell you, it’s unlikely that smoking marijuana will impair your driving several hours afterward.
Instead of the minimal charge one might get under decriminalization, the county court system decided to throw the book at him. He had to hire an attorney and fight or go to jail. After all was said and done and after a year taken out of his life, the jury decided in his favor. Meanwhile, what cost and damage was done to him and to his future, even though he doesn’t have the horror of going to jail and having that record? And this was someone with a medical marijuana card.
When it comes to the Proposition 205 to decriminalize marijuana, the choice is clear. If you think anyone who smokes or eats marijuana products should be thrown in jail or have a record that puts them in a permanent underclass—including your own family members—then by all means oppose it. If you think this is a terribly damaging approach, as damaging as Prohibition, if not worse, then the choice to vote for it is obvious.
Proposition 205 still makes marijuana illegal for people under 21, so its passage will have no immediate impact on access to the legal drug for teens. Taxing and restricting the drug has the effect of making it harder to get. According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey done in 2015, marijuana use among teens has not increased since legalization, as cited in an article in The Denver Post.
Passing Prop 205 will make a difference in progress toward national legalization, which could have a positive impact in ways not being discussed. Cannabinoid oils are proven to shrink tumors and have healing properties for certain cancers. We are still learning of the positive benefits of marijuana after years of a damaging policy by our federal government to block the study of its uses.
Nationally, if you need medication to treat chronic pain, you are denied use of marijuana products or are removed as a patient if you test positive. Until the federal government does away with criminalization of marijuana, people will continue to suffer needlessly. As more states legalize it, the shift is inevitable.
What angers me most of all when it comes to Proposition 205 opposition is the perpetuation of false information. The TV ads are loaded with distortions that a little research would disprove, but people are confused about why government officials would push such misinformation. I attended an anti-marijuana session last year. The speakers asserted that pot killed teens who committed suicide. Data was manipulated to the point of absurdity.
The Tucson Sentinel did a fact-checking story that refuted almost every “fact” in a 30-second “No on Prop 205” ad running on TV in a story with the headline, “What are crafters of anti-pot ads smoking?” The ad said Denver schools “got nothing” from the Colorado proposition. Denver schools had turned down funding, but still get $1 per student in funding benefit. Also, schools in Colorado outside of Denver have been given tens of millions since their proposition went into effect. The article concludes that 90 percent of teens don’t smoke pot and traffic deaths related to marijuana have increased .000007 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Half of those who died weren’t wearing seat belts.
Someone asked me why it is that TV ads with false information about Proposition 205 are able to air. I explained that has been the case ever since the Supreme Court decided not to uphold the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s, citing the vast amount of media available to determine truth. Congress passed a law to re-establish the doctrine, but President Reagan vetoed it.
Prop 205 looks certain to pass, but I’m writing about it because of the half a million dollars in funding toward the No on Prop 205 campaign from Insys Therapeutics, the pharmaceutical maker of Fentanyl. The deadliest prescription opioid drug on the market, Fentanyl killed the singer Prince. From 2013 to 2015, 5,500 people in 12 states died from accidental Fentanyl overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Children who even touch a Fentanyl patch can die.
In 2016, 66% of opioid-related overdoses have been attributed to Fentanyl in Massachusetts, where overdose deaths are tracked in real time, instead of being tallied a year later, according to The Boston Globe.
Insys is developing a cannabinoid product for medical users, according to the Arizona Republic. These products are typically far more dangerous than the natural plant. Passage of Prop 205 would create more competition for their product.
For the “so-called” Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy group bankrolling the “No on Prop 205” campaign to accept money from Fentanyl makers with marijuana interests shows their total hypocrisy and lack of real concern for young people who are at risk of drug abuse. I hope that clarifies the issue for those who are undecided.