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Ducey in Tucson to draw support for defeating pot legalization initiative
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Ducey in Tucson to draw support for defeating pot legalization initiative

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Gov. Doug Ducey spent time in Tucson on Wednesday rallying local law enforcement and community leaders to help to defeat legislation that would legalize recreational use of marijuana.

With Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk seated next to him in a midtown conference room, Ducey outlined a list of his reasons for opposing the citizen-led initiative Proposition 205. The measure would allow anyone 21 and older to possess and use up to an ounce of marijuana as well as grow their own plants.

Polk runs the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy political action committee, a group focused on defeating the proposition.

“Prop. 205 is something that needs to be stopped in November,” Ducey told the group. “This is winnable.”

However, those backing Prop. 205 said Ducey and his allies are trying to scare Arizonans to defeat the measure in November.

The governor is simply making up facts as he goes along, said J.P. Holyoak, the chair of the pro-Prop. 205 campaign, in an interview.

Ducey and Polk took turns outlining their reasons to opposing the initiative.

  • It will bring in relatively little revenue for education after expenses.
  • It strips control from cities and towns to regulate marijuana-related businesses.
  • Marijuana legalization will hurt businesses in Arizona.
  • Marijuana is going to make roads more dangerous.
  • The initiative, if approved, will be difficult to amend by the Legislature.
  • It will increase the number of teens using marijuana.

“This was sold to the voters in Colorado on the promise it would raise money for education,” Polk said. “It is, on its face, a ridiculous thought. Drugs don’t make for better children or better schools.”

Ducey argued there would be long-lasting economic ramifications, arguing major employers like Raytheon might consider leaving the state if they could not ensure a drug-free workplace.

“It puts local employers at odds against a federal law. It is a trial lawyer’s dream,” he said. “Employers are going to reject that, they are going to leave the state of Arizona. They are not going to invest in the state of Arizona and they may not come to the state of Arizona.”

Ducey defended the massive cash infusion made by Chandler-based Insys Therapeutics, which gave $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy to help defeat the measure. The company makes a synthetic version of marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, as well as the potent painkiller fentanyl.

“I want any resources we can have that allows us to communicate with voters about the lies that this initiative is being sold on,” Ducey said.

Inside the Southern Arizona Leadership Council offices, Ducey’s message found a receptive audience — even across the political aisle.

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos, a Democrat, said no sheriff in the state sees legalization as a step forward.

“I know I speak for the sheriff’s association, perhaps for all law enforcement, when I say that we see this as a public safety issue,” Nanos said. “This is really about our kids and the future of our state.”

Holyoak says he doesn’t need to go far to dismiss the various claims made by Ducey and his allies.

Referring to the claims about work-place safety, he read directly from the text of the Prop. 205 legislation.

“This chapter does not require an employer to allow or accommodate the possession or consumption of marijuana or marijuana products in the work place and does not affect the ability of employers to enact and enforce work place policies restricting the consumption of marijuana and marijuana products by employees,” he said.

As for claims about increased consumption of marijuana by teens, Holyoak referred to a recent survey by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The study found no sizable increase in marijuana use by teens since marijuana was legalized in Colorado.

As for driving while impaired on marijuana, he noted the state has ways to reliably test whether a person is impaired, not just whether they have traces of the drug in their system.

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