Have you heard about Arizona Proposition 207, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative that was approved in November 2020? If you have, you’re probably concerned about what this means for your community. If you haven’t, well, let’s just say that this bill is worth knowing about.
In simple terms, Proposition 207 legalizes the recreational use of marijuana in AZ. The purpose of doing this is to boost the local economy, free up resources for law enforcement and regulate the drug for consumer safety. But is the grass really greener on the other side? And will this bill prove harmful to the state of Arizona?
Let’s learn more about Proposition 207, what it entails and how it may impact AZ communities going forward.
What is Arizona Proposition 207?
Also called the “Smart and Safe Arizona Act,” Proposition 207 seeks to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for individuals 21 and over. The ballot passed in November 2020, which means Arizona has joined 11 other states that have already legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, despite it still being illegal under federal law.
Not only did Proposition 207 legalize the possession of marijuana for adults 21 and over, but also it set up a licensing system for retail sales of the drug. Growing as many as six plants at home is also legal for adults. Additionally, those who were previously convicted of marijuana crimes are expected to have their records expunged by the courts.
Prop 205 to 207: What Changed in Four Years?
Prop 207 is not the first time AZ voters have considered legalization. In 2016, Prop 205 sought to relax legal restrictions on recreational marijuana but the bill did not pass – it was rejected by 52% of voters. The biggest concerns at the time were public safety, youth use and public funding of education from tax revenues.
Fast forward to today, and Prop 207 was passed by 60% of voters. This wasn’t much of a surprise considering that in recent years, more states have legalized recreational marijuana. But the concerns back in 2016 are still the same today. What does legalization mean for crime rates, local economies and teen usage?
What AZ Lawmakers Have to Say About Legalization
For outpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers in Phoenix, hearing of another state passing the recreational use of marijuana isn’t surprising, but it is concerning. We realize the public’s view has been softening over the years, but we also see the other side of things.
Every day, we work with people who are struggling with substance abuse, and many have a hard time quitting marijuana. Other drugs and alcohol are typically a problem as well, but many young people start their drug use with marijuana and alcohol. Unless they can quit, this drug puts them at a higher risk for relapse.
So what do the proponents of legalization say? They believe that it will add billions of dollars to the economy, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, free up police resources, take money away from cartels and lower street crime. But opponents disagree and say that legalization will increase drug use among teens and lead to more medical emergencies, environmental damage, workplace accidents and crime.
What do you think?
Arizona May be on Board – But Not All States Are
Even though it might seem like “everyone” is legalizing marijuana, many states are still saying no. Not only are there the traditional concerns over cannabis – impaired memory and thinking, lost mental abilities, breathing problems, increased heart rate – but also concerns over what legalization will bring to communities.
For example, there has been a huge spike in marijuana exposure in children, and emergency room visits related to marijuana have soared. The black market also continues to thrive, which was evident in the rise in vaping illnesses that occurred in 2019. Also, a comprehensive DEEA report on drug trafficking found that state-level legalization is a gateway for cartels and gangs.
California is a great example of a failed attempt at legalization. Its marijuana industry is just a few years old and cannot compete with their illicit market. There are a number of theories for why this is the case, but the reality is that people are still buying weed off the streets rather than from controlled dispensaries.
What Will Legalization Mean for Future Generations?
Today’s lawmakers must also consider how legalizing marijuana will affect future generations. A recent study on youth drug use found that marijuana vaping among high school seniors has more than doubled since 2017 and daily marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders rose significantly since 2018.
Legalizing marijuana sends the message that the drug is safe, but this just isn’t true. Research shows that cannabis can cause serious mental health conditions and can lower IQ and motor function. Not to mention, today’s marijuana has much higher THC levels than in years past. This is not the same weed as it was in the 60s and 70s.
Additionally, some research suggests that marijuana is a gateway drug. While this has yet to be proven, we do believe that it can start teens on a path to abusing more serious drugs. And, with a growing tolerance for the drug, it’s sending the message to impressionable kids that marijuana is safe. However, this isn’t true.
Know the Risks of Marijuana – and Where to Get Help
For some, recreational cannabis is safe. However, for many people, it’s a drug that can negatively affect your physical and mental health, impair performance at work or school and lead to addiction. Continued use of the drug can also cause cardiac problems, neurological issues and respiratory problems.
If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana addiction, contact Continuum Recovery Center today. We offer substance abuse treatment in Phoenix for all types of addiction, including cannabis. We take this addiction seriously because it often leads to other forms of self-medication. Contact our admissions department to learn more about your options for outpatient treatment.