Marijuana Tax for Education Opposition

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A group promoting a 2016 ballot measure that would legalize marijuana wants to use tax proceeds from marijuana sales for education. We’ve heard from a backer of the measure on Arizona Horizon, and will hear from an opponent, Seth Leibsohn of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we hear from opponents of a plan to help fund education through legalized marijuana. We'll update preparation for the college football playoff in Glendale. And we'll learn about a plan to create art programs for senior citizens. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Efforts to find a settlement in a $2 billion lawsuit against the state over inflation-adjusted education funding failed today. That means the suit is headed back to court. At issue is $1.3 billion in unpaid inflation adjustments. The courts had ruled the adjustments must be reset, but that ruling is on appeal. We heard last week about a ballot measure that would use tax proceeds from marijuana sales for education. Tonight the other side is represented by Seth Leibsohn he is with the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. Good to have you here.

SETH LEIBSOHN: Thanks Ted. Thanks for having me.

TED SIMONS: Why not legalize minimum amounts of marijuana?

SETH LEIBSOHN: I think we have to read the law to know what's in the law. I don't want to pass it and find out after I've read through the law. I don't know that it's limited or minimum amounts. When you look at individuals being able to own six plants or households being able to own 12 plants, you're looking at 1,800 3,600 possible joints, when you consider a plant could give you 5 ounces of marijuana. That's one plant. That's not a minimum amount. That's a drug dealer's dream and a children's youth policy nightmare.

TED SIMONS: Why not okay for adults over 21?

SETH LEIBSOHN: In theory it sounds good. As we know and as that plan to legalize says, we want to make it like alcohol. How has that worked out for alcohol in this state or across the country? You can't legalize a dangerous substance here or anywhere in the United States without it finding its way into the slipstream of our youth. We have 25% of Arizona's youth using alcohol on a regular basis, nowhere near the number of that use marijuana.

TED SIMONS: As far as Alcohol prohibition, that didn't work, supporters of this say it's the same with marijuana. It's not working.

SETH LEIBSOHN: And they are not right. First of all, this is not the 1930'S and we've learned a lot through policing and law enforcement since then. Unfortunately for them, they are stuck in the 1930's and keep wanting to talk about prohibition. We're not talking about prohibition. We're talking about keeping the current laws in place on marijuana that keep its use pretty low. Here's how it works. About 7.5% of Americans use marijuana today. About 65% use alcohol on a regular basis. Use is pretty low, you're never going to get zero any more than you're going get zero poverty or zero unemployment, we've got it to about as low as we can get it and keep it, and I want to keep it low.

TED SIMONS: And yet, the other side would say there's less societal cost under medical marijuana at least as related to alcohol, and they will say that teen usage in states like Colorado and Washington, teen usage has actually fallen with greater access to marijuana. How do you respond to that?

SETH LEIBSOHN: It depends what baseline year they are looking at. Teen use has increased in Colorado over 35% if you start before commercialization there. Teen use has increased here since about 2006 before we medicalized it. If you rea the headlines of the major papers, you will see from the "Washington Post" more Colorado voters have tried pot since it's become legal. New York Times, Colorado is now the second highest pot using state in the country. Marijuana use has increased for Colorado.

TED SIMONS: Let me stop you right there. You're talking marijuana use, they are talking teen use.

SETH LEIBSOHN: I am too, 12 to 17 year old use as increased over 30% since 2006 in Colorado.

TED SIMONS: Since 2006, but since the law has been passed in Colorado, has that usage increased?

SETH LEIBSOHN: We're trying to get those numbers, we will have those numbers, Ted. When we look at usage increases on anything, it takes a couple years to suss it out. It took us five years to figure out what was going on with Vioxx. How long did it take us to figure out tobacco? We're not going to see changes overnight. Mark Kleinman is a professor at UCLA who studies marijuana and advises states on legalizing them and writes the books on them, and he's worked with Rand. He said it takes a few years to figure these things out and when we look at the years going back to before commercialization in those states, we see a rise in teen use.

TED SIMONS: So when the other side says it would be more effective to simply tax and regulate marijuana, it was certainly more effective to tax and regulate alcohol, again going back in the day, but that's the only way we can go as far as prohibition is concerned -- it's the same with marijuana. You say --
SETH LEIBSOHN: It's absolutely not the same. Alcohol has been used by societies since time immemorial. We're dealing with an illegal substance, we're dealing with decades and decades of hard health care educational and substance abuse public policy that has kept this drug illegal and use low. If you want it to look like alcohol or if they want it to look like alcohol. be prepared to see an increase of use like alcohol. In Arizona, according to our Arizona Youth Survey, we have 77% more of our teens using alcohol than marijuana. Are we really prepared for that?

TED SIMONS: Studies, they will say, show that marijuana users are less likely to develop dependence than alcohol. This is a White House study with the National Institute of Medicine. That study is out there, how do you respond?

SETH LEIBSOHN: Yeah, I mean the addiction rates are different but one sixth of marijuana users in adolescent years will be addicted, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. I don't think it's particularly healthy in public policy or any other kind of policy to start comparing what's better, do you want your kids using alcohol versus tobacco? Do you want to be run over by a car or a bus? Addiction is addiction, and it's a dangerous substance that leads to addiction, it will lead to dropouts, it will lead to expulsions and it will lead to more arrests.

TED SIMONS: The study they threw at me because we had them on last week, the facts are they say decreased costs on enforcement, decreased costs on health care, because very few people on marijuana alone, if anyone, has ever overdosed.

SETH LEIBSOHN: Well, that's not true, particularly in Colorado. We now have three deaths associated with marijuana.

TED SIMONS: Associated how?

SETH LEIBSOHN: Two homicides, one suicide. The CDC put out a report on this about two weeks ago.

TED SIMONS: I have to stop you here, I'm sorry, because that argument sounds interesting.


TED SIMONS: Yet you're saying because of marijuana someone murdered someone else?

SETH LEIBSOHN: Yeah, and we had it here in Arizona with Mr. Wakefield about a month ago, who decapitated his wife and two dogs. He had smoked marijuana earlier in the day. If this were any other drug, if we saw this rising rate of death increases if we saw cannabis abuse syndrome like we saw with the murder of Chris Kyle, the American sniper, if we saw what we saw at Virginia Tech, if we saw what we saw at the Boston Marathon bombing, if we saw what we saw at the Aurora massacre, all of these were regular marijuana users. Wouldn't we be looking more carefully at that?

TED SIMONS: But is it fair to associate those crimes and those people at all? They also probably brushed their teeth and they also probably wore pants. How can you say that they are associated when it's so far afield from what they actually did?

SETH LEIBSOHN: Well because there is not the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine and scientific journal after scientific journal saying that wearing your pants and brushing your teeth can cause psychosis, can cause any number of problems related to cognition, with related to judgment. This is a drug that affects the brain. It particularly affects the teen and adolescent brain. Study after study says it and no study says it doesn't.

TED SIMONS: Last question for you: Is it worth the money is it worth the effort? Is it worth the lives that are lost in Mexico, in America, in the underground drug trade, to continue this quote, unquote, war on marijuana?

SETH LEIBSOHN: The chief of the Colorado Police Association says the black market is thriving in Colorado. The marijuana black market is thriving in Colorado. The Rand Corporation said you might reduce cartel income by about %3 if you legalized it in California. I don't think it's good public policy to legalize a dangerous substance that will negatively affect our youth, to solve a problem in another country. It is a problem in another country. It's a big problem, but we have our own problems here and they start with alcohol and tobacco, and we don't need to add marijuana.

TED SIMONS: I'm glad we had you on, we had the other side on last week. Good to see you.


Seth Leibsohn of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy

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