TMC urges ‘no’ vote on Prop. 205 to legalize recreational marijuana

captureProp. 205 would change existing regulations around marijuana and further jeopardize public health.

The ballot measure would:

  • allow a person who is at least 21 to lawfully possess and use 1 ounce or less of marijuana.
  • establish a state commission to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana, beginning in 2018
  • impose a 15 percent tax on retail sale, and impose marijuana-related business licensing fees, that would pay for the costs of licensure and control, and then distribute the remainder to local jurisdictions, schools, and public education campaigns against substance abuse.

The state has estimated the measure would generate $53 million in 2019.

As a nonprofit community hospital, Tucson Medical Center does not get engaged in candidate races, but we may share our expertise on ballot initiatives that may impact the health of our community.

Here’s why it’s a shortsighted idea – and why TMC, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are among just some of the many organizations opposed to the legalization of marijuana because of public health concerns.

Local hospitals spent many months crunching data and talking to community members to identify the four top health problems facing Pima County – a process known as the Community Health Needs Assessment.

Efforts to address two of our largest and most immediate problems – substance abuse and accidents – would be directly undermined by this ballot measure.

Accidents already are the third highest cause of death in our community.

We anticipate if marijuana becomes more readily available, there will be more visits to the emergency room – not only from people who are not aware that marijuana is far more potent now than it was decades ago, but from children who may accidentally ingest edibles in the form of candy, brownies and gummy bears that are more attractive to kids. There is also no question that the wording of the law would complicate the prosecution of impaired drivers.

In the area of substance abuse, data tell us that Pima County teens already use alcohol and marijuana at rates higher than the national average.

There is no question that if marijuana is more accessible, that they will have more opportunities for exposure. We know kids aren’t supposed to use alcohol. We also know they do, because it is relatively easy to get. It’s hard to imagine marijuana would be any different – and the effects would be harmful to the developing adolescent brain.

Yes, alcohol and tobacco are legal – and we spend a lot of time, energy and resources addressing the very real human pain that these substances can cause when abused. This ballot measure only compounds the problem, and is unnecessary from a medical perspective, since there are already outlets for patients to access marijuana for its medicinal effects

Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper is now a few years into this experiment, and he continues to advise other states to wait a few more years to get a full understanding of the consequences before proceeding with legalization.

As an organization that is deeply invested in the public health of this community, TMC embraces that advice as a prudent approach given the significant risks that we may face otherwise.

Comments

  1. The illegal drug trade make it harder for substance abuse to come forward for help. Most are scared of being arrested. Once someone is even the slightest bit involved in the legal system, they are branded as pariahs. Let’s end the huge wall that is the drug war and start having a conversation with those suffering with drug problems. We need to start looking at why people start doing drugs rather than punishing those who do end up on that path.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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