Arizona voters next year will likely be asked whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry will oppose any such legalization efforts.
We arrived at our decision after careful consideration of the experiences of other states that have legalized marijuana, the arguments of proponents and research by our foundation.
After looking at all the facts, we’ve determined that there is no upside to the legalization of recreational marijuana. The negative consequences that could result from legalization affect our business environment and the public’s health.
On the business side, recreational marijuana exposes employers to increased workplace accidents, more workers’ compensation claims and lower overall workplace productivity. We also can’t ignore the adverse effects marijuana has on adolescents’ developing brains, which has serious implications for the development of Arizona’s workforce talent pipeline. No credible economic development organization would tout marijuana legalization as a reason to locate in Arizona. Legalization sends the wrong message to the companies we want to grow and invest here.
On the public health side, Arizona faces increased rates of addiction and the costs that come with drug treatment and rehabilitation. Also, research indicates that there has been a tripling of fatal car crashes involving marijuana, and that the number of drivers with marijuana in their system has seen a dramatic rise. And keep in mind that today’s pot is not the same pot that was at Woodstock. Today’s marijuana is significantly more potent, containing more than four times the level of THC than the pot of the 1960s and 70s.The rising potency also leads to a host of issues with so-called “edibles” and the effects of exposure to highly concentrated amounts of the psychoactive substance.
Legalization proponents will tell you that Arizona can expect rosy budget revenues from marijuana taxes. The evidence suggests otherwise.
Colorado, for example, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, has fallen far short of the $70 million in annual tax revenues promised by proponents. And establishing a new governmental bureaucracy to regulate pot isn’t cheap, not to mention the costs of drug treatment and rehabilitation programs. Legalization is a risky and expensive proposition.
The question of whether to legalize recreational marijuana has far-reaching implications for our state. Given the enormity of the consequences, the Legislature would be a better venue for debate. Legalization is not an issue that should be decided at the ballot box, where, if passed, it will be essentially carved in stone.
Proposition 105, Arizona’s Voter Protection law, which was passed in 1998, severely limits the ability of the Legislature to reverse or alter a voter-passed measure. With legalization experiments in other states still very much in their infancy, we should proceed with extreme caution before we pass a new law by initiative that will be difficult to ever change or undo.
There will always be individuals who want to get high, and many will figure out a way to do so. But Arizona should not calibrate a sweeping, untested public policy effort around them.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.