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Sat, Dec. 07

Yavapai Regional Medical Center board takes stand against recreational pot

The Yavapai Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees takes a position against a November ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.
Photo by Matt Hinshaw.

The Yavapai Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees takes a position against a November ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

PRESCOTT — No pot smoking allowed – unless it’s prescribed by a doctor.

That’s the official stand of the Yavapai Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees, the first medical entity in the state to take a position against a November ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy announced the trustees’ decision on Thursday.

“We, the Board of Trustees at Yavapai Regional Medical Center, appreciate and deeply value the importance of healthy communities,” the trustees said after a July 17 vote. “We advocate for the health of everyone living in the communities we represent.

“Improving and maintaining health is challenging and complex. We support a multitude of ongoing health programs to help our communities be healthier. We commit our resources to provide services, information and education to help maximize good health for all, from tiny newborns to frail centenarians. In that spirit, we have voted consistently with the position taken by the Board of Directors for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. The YRMC Board of Trustees opposes the initiative regarding legalization of marijuana in Arizona for recreational use – the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.”

Board Chairman Paula Kneisel was not available Thursday to elaborate on the board’s decision.

Arizona state law currently allows marijuana use by medical prescription only.

On July 6, the association voted to take a stand against the campaign that has resulted in adequate petitions to put the issue on this year’s ballot.

The association opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use because it is “antithetical to our mission to build better healthcare and health for the patients, people and communities of Arizona,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Vigdor.

“There is much uncertainty – and risk – in this ballot initiative given the short, unsteady track record in states where the drug has been legalized for recreational use,” Vigdor said in his statement. “What we do know from these states is the commercialization of marijuana increases pot-related hospitalizations; youth access and usage; accidental poisonings due to pediatric exposures and marijuana-related DUIs. Marijuana legalization is a bad bet.

“Arizona already faces considerable public health challenges, especially when it comes to substance abuse. Expanding access to recreational marijuana will only exacerbate these issues,” he concluded.

The association represents some 71 hospitals and healthcare facilities across Arizona.

MatForce Executive Director Merilee Fowler expressed gratitude for YRMC’s strong stand against an initiative the county substance abuse prevention coalition believes will bring harm to the health and well-being of the citizens in Yavapai County.

“I’m so extremely grateful to YRMC,” Fowler said.

She said the hospital trustees’ position speaks to the depth of YRMC’s commitment to protecting the community from the harm imposed by a drug that has proved hazardous in other states where it is now legal. In such states as Colorado, Fowler said there is evidence of increases in visits to emergency rooms due to the effects of marijuana on individuals; a rise in addictions among young people as well as mental health crisis connected to potency levels.

“I think this says a lot about their leadership and concern for the health of our community,” Fowler said on Thursday.

Likewise, County Attorney Sheila Polk lauded YRMC’s trustees for stepping up against an initiative drug prevention advocates fear will have adverse ramifications that will reverberate across the state.

“I am so proud of our hospital coming forward to stand with us in support of defeating the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act,” Polk said in a news release from Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy.

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