A Cautionary Letter on Marijuana from AZ to NH Legislators

“As a result of false promises and unheeded warnings, Arizona is now dealing with blatant recreational use and promotion of marijuana, fights to keep dispensaries out of neighborhoods, and costly litigation.”

New Hampshire legislators, are considering a “medical” marijuana bill. The New Hampshire Legislature passed a “medical” marijuana bill during their last session, but it was vetoed by then-Governor Lynch. Their new Governor, Maggie Hassan, is believed to be generally supportive of such a law.  A vote in the full New Hampshire House is imminent.


Dear NH Senators and Representatives,

Keep AZ Drug Free (“KADF”) was the primary opponent of Arizona’s so-called “medical” marijuana initiative in 2010, which passed by the paper-thin margin of 4,300 votes (out of 1.8 million votes cast). As you consider legislation to legalize “medical” marijuana, I beg you to listen to Arizona’s cautionary tale.

As a result of false promises and unheeded warnings, Arizona is now dealing with blatant recreational use and promotion of marijuana, fights to keep dispensaries out of neighborhoods, and costly litigation.

After three years of chaos, a bill is now pending in the Arizona Legislature to refer a measure to the 2014 ballot, which will give Arizona voters the chance to repeal the “medical” marijuana law.

Arizonans are suffering buyers’ remorse.
The proponent of Arizona’s “medical” marijuana law was the Marijuana Policy Project, part of a national marijuana lobby out of Washington, D.C. that is behind every state pro-marijuana initiative and legislation. Employing tactics successfully used in other states, the pot lobby deceptively peddled Arizona’s “medical” marijuana law as a “compassionate” act for people with serious and terminal illnesses like cancer.

The true mission of the pot lobby in Arizona was made blatantly obvious as soon as the campaign was over. Although the pot lobby promised Arizonans that the “tightly drafted” initiative would keep the marijuana program strictly “medical,” delighted proponents immediately began celebrating and supporting blatant recreational use and promotions, opening numerous marijuana “compassion clubs,” and even hosting “farmer’s markets” showcasing the “oh-so-medical” strains of marijuana like “Train Wreck,”  “Maui Wowie,” and “Purple Haze.” Compassion clubs, cooperative grow centers and indoor grow operations have sprung up all over Arizona, bringing increased crime, decreased quality of life, and decreased property values to neighborhoods.

Arizona’s program is being abused by recreational users. Any benefits to the few participants in the marijuana program who are seriously ill are overwhelmingly outweighed by the harms to our kids and communities.

  • Arizona’s health director acknowledges that recreational users exploit the program. He also acknowledged that health resources were used for the marijuana program rather than more pressing health issues and admits that “in medical marijuana, the payoff was not profound.”

Arizona’s legitimate business owners are harmed by pot shops. Business owners are standing with residents to prevent pot dispensaries from opening in residential as well as commercial neighborhoods.One of the largest employers in Phoenix (as well as one of the most prestigious businesses in Arizona), Ping Golf, which has been at the same location for 45 years, threatened to pull up stakes if a pot dispensary was allowed to locate in Ping’s commercial neighborhood. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/03/23/20110323ping-marijuana-phoenix.html Ping officials were concerned about the poor image given to visiting celebrities and professional golfers, especially young golfers.

  • Less famous, but equally concerned businesses have spoken out about the negative effect pot dispensaries have on legitimate businesses. As stated by a business owner in Heber/Overgaard at a recent meeting of the Navajo County Planning and Zoning Commission, “If the state has reasons why this shouldn’t be near schools and churches, I don’t want it next to my business. My kids get dropped off there often and I have scouting activities there in the back yard. I have the same concerns as the state.” The business owner also noted the “additional concern of losing business if people should feel uncomfortable coming to an area where a dispensary is located.” Another resident at that same meeting “expressed concerns over potential gang activity should the location be made known and her fear of property value decreasing.” http://www.azjournal.com/2012/10/24/medical-marijuana-zoning-requests-shot-down-due-to-safety-concerns/ The Navajo Planning and Zoning Commission denied the dispensary owner’s request for a special use permit and, upon rehearing, denied it again. http://www.azjournal.com/2013/03/01/marijuana-dispensary-permit-denied-again/
  • Many of these same concerns were voiced recently by the businesses in Ahwatukee, where residents and business owners united to successfully prevent a dispensary applicant from receiving a zoning variance.

Residents in other states are suffering buyers’ remorse
Arizonans are not the only ones suffering buyers’ remorse. Here are just a few examples of buyers’ remorse in other states:

  • The people of Montana, through a grassroots campaign created by four moms, led two different repeal efforts, one in 2010 (which led to the repeal by the Montana Legislature but vetoed by the Governor) followed by a successful initiative campaign in 2012 to severely restrict the law (prohibiting all sales of marijuana).
  • More counties and cities in California ban dispensaries than allow them. Costly litigation by marijuana advocates against cities and counties abound. The California Supreme Court recently heard the case of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness, which tests the ability of municipalities to ban dispensaries on the basis of zoning regulations. Numerous other cases are working their way through the courts. In 2012, all five California cities with initiatives on their ballots to allow pot dispensaries were soundly defeated. Buyers’ remorse in California is reaching new heights. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-a-sabet-phd/medical-marijuana-buyers-_b_1704230.html
  • In 2010, the people of Oregon soundly rejected a “medical” marijuana dispensary component for their existing program and in 2012, soundly rejected a general legalization initiative.
  • Costly litigation, threats of federal enforcement action, and residents’ objections to opening of pot shops in their neighborhoods have delayed full implementation of the medical” marijuana laws in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

States are not equipped to handle “medical” marijuana laws.
Federal drug policy is determined and implemented by a network of federal agencies thoughtfully created to work in a coordinated fashion. The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is the agency that determines the safety and efficacy of all drugs, as provided under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”) researches and disseminates scientific information concerning prevention and treatment of drug abuse and addiction, which serves as the basis for national drug policy. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (“ONDCP”) annually prepares a National Drug Control Strategy to reduce illicit drug use and expand substance abuse treatment. Other federal partners in the Strategy include the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Education, and others.

States rely upon the work of these federal agencies, as well as others like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), and the Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”), to set policies and guidelines concerning drugs and their effects on communities and individuals.

Over the past few years, state “medical” marijuana laws have added provisions allowing large-scale growing, packaging, and selling of marijuana with little or no oversight and no state agencies that are able to regulate or control this process. Without a state equivalent of the FDA, NIDA, ONDCP, and other important agencies overseeing drug policy, as well as safety and compliance, states simply are not equipped to deal with these laws. States do not have the knowledge, agencies, or resources to perform those functions.

Drug policy should be set by experts, not by private interest groups.
National and international experts, not special interest groups, should set drug policy to make it sound (based on scientific research rather than anecdotal stories) and protect users. The pot lobby advocates for drug users and sellers who have personal and financial interests, rather than public interests, at heart. These special interest groups falsely claim that marijuana is harmless, that marijuana-related arrests are burdening the criminal justice system, and that taxing marijuana will generate significant income for state and local governments.

In fact, marijuana causes many short- and long-term physical and mental health issues. Using marijuana significantly increases the risks of car crashes and workplace accidents. More laws governing marijuana’s use, production and sale will increase arrests for violations of those laws. And, like taxes on alcohol and tobacco, any tax revenue raised on marijuana would be far outweighed by the increased costs of health care, increased costs of workmen’s compensation and insurance, lost productivity, and increased crime.

The evidence shows “medical” marijuana laws are a hoax.

  • Almost all of the “medical” marijuana goes to recreational users who have no serious medical problems at all (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/08/opinion/a-bad-trip-for-democrats.html?_r=0). The vast majority of marijuana cardholders claim “pain” as their qualifying condition, which is easily faked and impossible to disprove. A handful of doctors in each state write the vast majority of recommendations for marijuana, creating a lucrative cottage industry for themselves, while assuring an increased addiction rate and an increased burden on our states’ public health systems.
  • “Medical” marijuana laws are the work of a national pro-drug lobby, consisting primarily of the Marijuana Policy Project (“MPP”), Drug Policy Alliance (“DPA”) and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (“NORML”). These are not medical organizations. They represent the interests of drug users and sellers, with the stated intention of normalizing marijuana use in this country. Their advocacy of marijuana as “medicine” is a ruse, designed to set the country on the road to general legalization. And their overall intention, written in the Drug Policy Alliance mission statement, is to advocate for the legalization of all drugs (http://www.drugpolicy.org/mission-and-vision).
  • State “medical” marijuana laws are regressive, ignoring the lessons of our past and wiping out years of thoughtful federal policy and procedures. During the early 19th and 20th centuries, this nation was facing serious issues concerning adulterated medicines and addiction due to the lack of oversight of the patent medicine industry. States attempted to regulate and control this problem and a patchwork of state laws was created that varied from state to state. Congress determined that federal oversight was necessary to solve these problems, establishing the Food and Drug Administration and eventually passing the Controlled Substances Act.
  • The FDA, which is responsible for approving all foods and drugs for consumption in this country, has not approved marijuana as a medicine. State “medical” marijuana laws are nothing more than foolish approvals of medicines at the ballot box, with dangerous results.
  • Marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has been found to have no accepted medical use, is addictive, and can’t be used safely even under a physician’s care. These findings recently were confirmed by the DEA in denying a petition to reclassify marijuana into a lower schedule. The DEA’s decision was confirmed on January 22, 2013, by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (ASA v. DEA).
  • The medical associations that advocate for patients with the very conditions listed in “medical” marijuana laws, including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institutes of Health, Institute of Medicine, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Glaucoma Society, and American Academy of Ophthalmology do not support smoked marijuana as medicine but, in fact, believe smoked marijuana does more harm than good. Outrageously, while marijuana advocates tout marijuana’s benefits for glaucoma patients, the American Glaucoma Society warns against using marijuana, as it can cause a spike in intraocular pressure, leading to damage to the optic nerve.

Teens are not simply a side casualty of state pro-marijuana laws; they are the targets.
Fewer than 7% of Americans smoke pot. The vast majority of those who smoke pot are between the ages of 17 and 26, with the peak age of use at 19. Drug dealers are counting on creating a demand for their drugs among our children. Few people take up smoking pot as adults so, to promote sales, drug dealers must target our children much like the marketing employed by the tobacco industry.

Our children simply are the primary losers in the marijuana debacle. With the increase of “medical” marijuana laws, the perception of harm has decreased and teen use has skyrocketed. The younger the user, the more likely he or she is to become addicted. Research shows that teenagers who smoke pot at least once a week do worse in school, are more likely to drop out, and have less rewarding careers as adults compared to non-users. In fact, pot-smoking teens regularly drop out at twice the rate of non-smokers, while alcohol use is barely linked to the drop out rate at all. Tens of thousands of pot-smoking kids drop out every year. No drug is more implicated in poor school performance. Recent research also shows that regular teen marijuana use interferes with brain development, lowers IQ, and even appears to be linked with mental health issues like schizophrenia and other psychoses, including severe depression and anxiety.

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, unintended legal and economic consequences result in states with “medical” marijuana laws.

  • Those using, possessing, cultivating or selling marijuana pursuant to state marijuana laws have no immunity from federal prosecution. The DOJ, DEA, ATF, IRS and USDA can take action against such individuals at any time during the statute of limitations period. These actions include both criminal and civil prosecutions, which could lead to prison terms, as well as seizure of property and assets. Although inconsistently applied, federal enforcement action is appropriate and effective in shutting down marijuana businesses. The recent seizure by the DEA of the assets of Harborside Health Center should serve as a warning to all who participate in the federally illegal marijuana industry. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/harborside-health-center-lawsuit_n_2718821.html
There will be no tax revenues to offset economic harm to the state.

Any taxes collected by states or cities on the sales of marijuana (or income taxes on marijuana businesses) are subject to seizure by the federal government (because they are proceeds of illegal drug trafficking), so any “revenues” collected by states or cities are illusory at best.

Even if states or cities could legally tax marijuana, any tax revenues collected would pale in comparison to the social and health costs related to its use. Federal and state alcohol taxes raise $14.5 billion yearly. This covers only about 6% of alcohol’s total cost to society.

Thank you for your consideration of these concerns.