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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions April 24, 2015

3/20/2014 6:01:00 AM
Column: War against weed is lost; all that's left is shouting

Courier Columnist

The federal government recently introduced new rules allowing banks to take cash deposits from marijuana dispensaries-the first real step toward national legalization. Already Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug for recreational use statewide; 20 states including Arizona have legalized medical marijuana; 13 states are expected to have medical marijuana referendums this year and six states have decriminalized recreational use of the plant.

In Arizona, a referendum to legalize is moving toward inclusion on a statewide ballot in 2016. Also, a bill to end felony sentencing for minor possession cases has been introduced in the Arizona House and may move forward.

Based on current public opinion - a Gallup poll in October found 58 percent of Americans say it should be legalized - it's only a matter of time before it is. After decades of evidence that prohibition doesn't work, it's time to end the weed war.

In spite of a tidal wave of support for legalization, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors and the city councils of Prescott and Prescott Valley recently passed resolutions against legalizing pot at the urging of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and MatForce, the local anti-drug group she leads.

Polk told The Daily Courier she's trying to head off problems because some law enforcement official in Colorado told her crime is up in his area. Also because MATForce members say legalization will get more pot into the hands of kids.

On both sides of legalization, most people agree minors shouldn't have marijuana. However, they already do. Even so, an Arizona survey showed teen marijuana use declined when it was legalized for medical use. Only by legalizing and controlling it will there be any chance of regulating distribution. To pretend otherwise is pandering to those who are against legalizing it on moral grounds - the modern version of the Temperance League.

Many law enforcement officials are very much in favor of legalization. The members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) are thousands of current and former police officers. They believe a "tight system of legalized regulation" is the answer to "cripple the violent cartels and street dealers who control the current illegal market." The so-called War on Drugs created an underground system that has defied every effort of the DEA and its paramilitary forces to stop it. Just as legalizing alcohol made it much safer and more controllable, the same will be true for pot.

Severe drug laws across the country victimize millions of people who are incarcerated for abuse instead of being treated. In Arizona, where for-profit prisons are the norm, they are preferred criminals because they're non-violent. Typically poor and unable to pay for an adequate defense, they fill the cells. In 2006, the most recent data, more than 41,000 Americans were in state or federal prison for marijuana charges, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (mpp.org).

The costs to taxpayers are staggering. According to the ACLU, the cost of enforcing marijuana possession laws was $3.6 billion in 2010 nationwide. More than 12 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana possession since 1995. Of those, about 88 percent were for possession, not manufacture or distribution. The human costs, too, are shameful. Blacks are nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, though both races, according to the ACLU, use the drug about equally.

A Harvard University economist, Jeffrey Miron, projected in 2010 that replacing marijuana prohibition with taxation and regulation would create about $17.4 billion in reduced government spending and increased revenues.

Here in Yavapai County, young people are the primary offenders arrested for marijuana possession. Instead of a slap on the wrist, they often face permanent felony records, and struggle to find work and overcome the stigma for years. It doesn't make sense to ruin a young person's life for smoking pot.

Not one to miss jumping on a bandwagon, Congressman Paul Gosar introduced a "No Welfare for Weed" bill. A TV news report showed EBT cards are being used at dispensary ATMs in Colorado. Maybe it would make more sense to change the system so that the cards can't be turned into cash, which can be used for any kind of drug, strip clubs and alcohol, which is far more dangerous than pot.

To paraphrase Victor Hugo, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Sensing the need to adapt with the times, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton signed the petition to get the referendum to legalize marijuana on the ballot in Arizona. Meanwhile Polk and MATForce are trying to save us from evil weed with "resolutions." Good luck with that.

Toni Denis is a freelance journalist, a five-year Prescott resident and chairwoman of the Democratic Women of the Prescott Area.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Article comment by: just like the argument for the 2nd amendment

MJ does not smoke people...People smoke MJ.

Unless the folks in the other side want to stop treating MJ as if it was as dangerous as a gun then they need to stop using the same playbook.

Since you can't legislate or control the free will of a human you are instead going after a substance that falls at 13th in one list of addictive items. Tobacco is #3 and alcohol # 8.

We all know the goal is for Matforce to get a hold of the 6 million dollar prize that came from the very Med. MJ program they despise. Then what you ask? They will spend it all to support their position that MJ creates addictive personalities and make the county and state the now infamous "hard target" for voter petitioned ballot initiatives. Oops the truth come out.

And the next item on the list even if they won't admit it is Med. MJ. that 6 mil. would be handy to run a campaign to have the citizens vote the Med. MJ law back out of existence. Just you watch.

See how emotional they get, this should have been a 5 minute slam dunk approval in their eyes... but not so fast.


Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014
Article comment by: The Rev

My comments stand. They are inspired by Toni's parting "Good luck with that.".

I want, no need, cannabis legalized. It plays a large part with my health. Though a card is possible I dislike being placed on a list whose use can change as easily as political administrations or a FOIA request.

Toni's work here endangers me. No minds will be changed by her work. Instead of handing an olive branch she chooses a branch of mesquite to bash her opponents.

We deserve better.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: @@ No Hope

I don't smoke pot, I'm not a stoner, never have been and never will be. However, I do feel it should be completely legalized and while I do like Sheila Polk as person, I think she's way off base on this one. I sat watching my young sister die from cancer. Her doctors had her on every type of legal, horrible narcotic known to man. Had she been allowed a Medical MJ card her life would have been better and longer. Once her pain reached the morphine level she died. Why? Because it kills you, and fast, the patient can no longer breath nor function whatsoever. So hell yes I will vote for legalization. Prohibition has never stopped anyone, in fact it made people dealing alcohol rich, just like the "dealers" and jailers are becoming now. It's shameful for people to deny the sick and dying a drug that won't kill them faster and that has little if any side effects. Shame on all you judgemental people who don't give a damn about other people's well being. Seriously, is better to allow illegal drug cartels and dealers sell to children--because they are. Or, is it better to treat pot like many people do alcohol and for them to lock it away from their kids? There's a reason Arizona VOTED for legalization, and a darn good one, especially because our next door neighbors (MX) are getting rich.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: sunday afternoon

First, is it MATForce or PANT, maybe DARE?
Anyway, whichever is the flavor of the day.
You guys want it out of the hands of teens, best I can do is promise they won't get it from me. So, with that, you guys patrol every night right? Swing by my house, drive me to a gas station.I'll buy a nights worth of gas for you, you can sell me weed at your cost plus 15%, you drive me home. Your money and expenses ahead, one person safer, frees you up to catch the Meth, the city saves on overhead, not much different then with confiscated weapons. Hell, every veteran officer seems to be looking for a new career when they retire, this would provide experience in retail or product management, beats thinking the world needs more than one Joe Wambaugh.
Day is coming when people will see you as the new UAW, speaking for myself, I'm already driving a car that is going to last me the rest of my life. Best i can tell, even the insurance companies only need you to clean up the mess nowadays.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: pal maleter

" MatForce and the Polk propaganda machine should never control this debate because they are incapable of making logical arguments. "

True, but they don't have to. They have the power to arrest, overcharge and imprison.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: J Rogers

This appears to be a very good article. No false scare story such as promoted by Polk and others.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: @save the cover up


HFCS has been shown to be as addictive as cocaine in recent mice studies. In fact, some mice became even more addicted to HFCS than cocaine.

Interesting that most of the population of Prescott is probably addicted to this dangerous substance, yet I do not see any letters about this here.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: Kat Marie

Great article. I don't use pot but I am a huge advocate to legalize it. I have been around it since I was 14 yrs old and I will be 57 in less then a month. I started drinking when I was 17 in high school very easy to purchase and then the drinking age was 19 here in AZ. I joined the USAF and continued to drink because it was legal and was glamorized by the military! It's been over 10 yrs since I drank it did a job on my brain and my body! Pot will not do these horrible things to you! I am going to get my MMJ card here soon! I was just diagnosed at the VA with Osteo Arthritis and the pain is excuciating! I won't use narcotics to control the pain they do kill! Pot will not kill . You would have to consume 15,000 lbs yes Fifteen thousand pounds in Fifteen minutes to even come close to an overdose! Even renouned Dr. Sanjay Gupta who was against pot is now an advocate for its use! He did a 360 degree turn around when he saw the good that pot can do. So in 2016 we advocates for its use will be out to vote it in there are a lot more voters for it then against it! We will win in 2016.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: @ No Hope

You are just trying to saddle the legalization issue with these other random issues because you know the majority support legalizing marijuana. The majority are not stoned. It just makes sense. Most people just don't support policies that are more harmful to young people than the actual marijuana.

40% of Republicans support making it legal to sale marijuana in this state. Do you believe that 40% of Republicans are stoned? Do you believe that 59% of Independents are also stoned? Do you want to put 40% of Republicans and 59% of Independents in jail?

Obviously you believe that using marijuana is irresponsible. Maybe you are right but can't you influence your community without making it a crime to behave in ways you disapprove of?
America's greatness is not at stake here. Your own need to think you are better than others is what's at stake.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: Save the coverup.

The real issue and saddest part of this drug bruhaa is how pathetic and weak Americans have become.

So weak minded, weak spirited that they cannot get through a day without a chemical substance to survive.

Save the "pain" excuse for somewho who cares.

The most profitable business to own in America today is a Rehab Facility, with a Marijuana distributorship as a sideline!

Hope all you potheads are up for the challenge of opening pandora's box. Will be fun to watch with a clear mind and head.

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: Ron R Harvey

One of the best articles I have read in the Courier. Excellent work!

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: @ no Hope

Quite a few of the people in favor of legalization don't smoke weed... The alcoholic voters have been voting for years. The world hasn't ended...
You also claim that America is somehow exceptional because it doesn't allow gay marriage... Wow. I'm a republican, but quickly turning independent. The constitution mentions nothing about marriage being between a man and a woman, but it does mention freedom of religion...Just because your religion doesn't condone it doesn't mean that it should be illegal.. I am a Christian btw... I may not agree with gay marriage but who am I to say that two consenting adults can't be married because they are of the same sex?
Also, what exactly should we do about Putin? We aren't the world police........ It's time to let other countries deal with their own problems.
America is great because of the freedoms that come from the constitution. That isn't changing by legalizing weed or gay marriage. I choose to respect everyone regardless of their beliefs. It is the Christian thing to do... Maybe you should try that..

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Lorenzen

Quite a bit here to take umbrage with, and with which to disagree. But....at least we Courier readers finally have a writer who stands tall in the light of day and offers independent thought and does so with the skill to compose a coherent column without the run-on sentences, fragments, and misspelled words so commonly found in the writings of others we see on these pages.

Perhaps, now, we are getting somewhere.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: No Hope

There is no hope left for American greatness. Stoned voters want to legalize drugs, destroy marriage, eliminate our boarders, and capitulate to Putin. Freedom without responsibility is leading to America's demise.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: Legalize it now

Let's cut through all of the BS now and legalize it already.

Hopefully now that CVS has requested all other major big box stores and retailers to ban cigarette sales, they will follow suit. Then the government will have no choice but to outlaw cigarettes altogether.

The sooner we can all light up a joint and mellow out together to end the fighting, the better.

Weed is good, cigarettes are bad.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: @ The Rev

Did we read the same column? I went back and read the column again. I found no mention of Toni Denis seeking higher office or asking you to trust her. I saw no attempt on the author's part to validate cannabis safety. I did not read anything in the column that you are taking issue with.

You did not dispute the fact that 60% of the American people favor legalization... instead you say that has nothing to do with safety. Who said it did?

The "cogent argument" is about why legalization will pass in 2016 when it makes it to the ballot. The "cogent argument" is about the price we are paying not only in dollars but in misery and ruined lives.... for this misguided, ill conceived, war on weed.

Finally... It isn't like you to over react for example using violent language "attack" to describe a public official bring criticized for a bill they have introduced. I like Paul Gosar as a person and I haven't voted Democrat in 30 years but HR4142 is emblematic of the ham bone seeking superficial recognition over substantial contribution.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

@Rev: To me, this issue has nothing to do with cannabis safety. It has everything to do with throwing people in jail and ruining their ability to get ahead in life. As for the race thing, look up the stats. You and I are much less likely to be searched and arrested. People of lesser privilege end up being the ones who get busted. Is that really a wrong thing to talk about?

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: @ cry for help

Steve g, how can I say this
I can remember the promises from before the fire, made coffee to save my life not for its flavor
go on back, the door is always open
sooner or later you'll have to trust somebody
make sure it's somebody that won't judge you

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: Extreemism in defense of Privilage is no Vice, (traslated)

"Focusing upon race and "for-profit prisons" frames Toni as a unidimensional politician spouting talking points."

The truth often has a liberal bias. Reconciliation begins with an honest history.

@ Into Oblivion "The generation that put America on the map are on the way out...so you are on your own. Go fetch!.

Thirty years of Reaganomics evolving into 8 years of Bush Corporatism and belligerent wars of aggression, and a Great Recession. You were the beneficiary of the New Deal and the Great Society and too bad you were so arrogant to believe, in retrospect, your success was by your 'bootstraps'.

The background is often invisible, not seeing what has become part of the daily environment. I'm old enough to know that I too was the beneficiary of race, class and gender and two collage educated parents who helped afforded mine, and the words of wisdom of my grandparents who parents who lived the Great Depression. We all have been wasteful piggies ("Don't worry be happy", and "Go shopping") with severe emotional, economic and environmental consequence to that next generation. Reconciliation begins with an honest history.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: Citi Zen

Hey "Steve G", this is a discussion about pot, not about meth, heroin, coke, hard liquor, compulsive gambling or prescription drug abuse. Now, if it had been a discussion about any of those things, then I could understand your comment better. But applied to a discussion about Pot, it doesn't seem to fit.

Now if a pot user ALSO engages in the serious abuses I've listed above, then by all means, they need to be set "free". But pot by itself used by consenting adults simply doesn't cause the extreme conditions you describe in most instances. I'm sure once in a while someone goes off the deep end strictly due to pot use. But that's the type of person who's going to lose their "mind, heart, soul, children" over one thing or another at some point anyway.

The tens upon tens of millions of responsible adult pot users in the world do not wish to be lumped in with the occasional example of someone who goes off the rails due strictly to their pot use.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: Steve G

All I will say is, when you are hooked on dangerous life changing and mind numbing drugs and need a way out, look me up. When you have lost your mind and heart and soul through drugs give me a call. When you have lost your children to a drug induced insanity, I know how to get free. I am free.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: John Citizen

Word to the wise: keep building those rehabilitation homes, because Prescott is going to need them.

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: Chris W

Cannabis will be legal nationally. We have already won, if you don't like it renounce your citizenship and move to Riyadh. Your not the majority and once the baby boomers are dead the real progression of our country will begin"

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: robert dawg

Kudos!! for Ms. Denis's article. As for Ms. Polk
and her storm troopers "Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" Abraham Lincoln. Not that Ms Polk would subscribe to any of that.....

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014
Article comment by: The Rev

Toni Denis presents no more "cogent argument" and Shelia Polk. Let us review Toni:

  • 58% of society being fine with legalization is a social attitude not validation of cannabis safety. If everyone jumps off a bridge should you?

  • Some honesty please: With legalization more children will have easier access to cannabis. This will happen, perhaps not in large numbers but it will happen. We need to face that.

  • Focusing upon race and "for-profit prisons" frames Toni as a unidimensional politician spouting talking points. She sounds like a generic DNC member.

  • Toni's desire for higher office becomes more apparent as she bashes Paul's "No Welfare for Weed" bill. A small item that may have little effect but is a reasonable request. Attacking HR4142 (and him for it) is unworthy of an open minded leader.

  • She ends her "cogent arguments" with a barb toward those scared but mostly good people who passed that resolution, "Good luck with that.", how boorish. She insults instead of seeking understanding. No matter, that is how you get vote here. The People love it.

Do not read me wrong, I have no faith in Shelia or MATForce but why would I trust this Toni person?

Tails and tails. This coin is bogus we need to change our currency.

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