Anti-pot arguments continue to be disingenuous


Crossposted from

lisa james
Photo: AZ Republic My Turn

Lisa James, who chairs Just Vote No (which opposes legalizing marijuana in Arizona), had a My Turn column in Monday’s Arizona Republic, wherein she asserts that passing a proposition to legalize pot in Arizona will lead inexorably to mass addictions, wasted lives, and death.

E.J. Montini’s recent blog, “Did marijuana actually kill 62 kids in Arizona? Or …,” misses the point being made by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and other opponents of recreational marijuana.

The research study Polk cited may not serve as evidence one could use in a court room to directly tie marijuana to 62 children’s deaths in Arizona in 2013, but I can tell you from personal experience you should be using it in your family room, your classroom, your doctor’s office and when you walk into the voting booth next November.

The airtight case that James presents is the anecdotal experience of exactly one person, her brother, who has struggled with substance abuse for most of his life. That is heart-wrenching and I am very sorry for him and his family but this is simply not a valid argument for the continued criminalization of pot. Pot being illegal did not stop her brother from trying it and going on to harder and harder drugs, including meth. Nor is there evidence that marijuana even plays a preeminent role in harder drug use. James can actually thank alcohol for that, statistically, irrespective of what her brother tried first.

I realize personal narrative is one of the most powerful ways to get a political message across but Lisa James is not just doing a TV ad here. She’s writing an editorial column and is simply not presenting hard evidence to support her claims. Plus, as I’ve argued before, people increasingly have their own benign experiences (of themselves or people close to them) with weed that don’t comport with James’ dire slippery-slope predictions.

James doesn’t stop at the spurious “gateway drug” argument. She goes on to play the “Dear God what about the children??” card using (again) exactly one person from her own family to illustrate her point:

If we legalize recreational marijuana, we are sending a message to our kids that, in the words of my own teenage son, “If it’s legal, that means it’s not that bad, right?”

Wrong. Unfortunately, years of discussions about how bad choices can ruin lives, as evidenced by his uncle, are thrown out with one statement about making it legal. Thankfully, we talk about it and could correct it in our home.

Ms. James, a Scottsdale resident, might be a teetotaler but based on her bio she is probably affluent, so my guess is her impressionable son has seen at least a few well-coiffed adults legally swilling glasses of wine (or whatever) in his life. Does she not care about the message that sends him? If not, why not? If she’s like many anti-weed crusaders, James might offer some practiced answer to that along the lines of, “Look how much harm legal alcohol and tobacco have caused! Why add another substance to the mix!”

There are several problems with that answer, not the least of which is the fact that people are not being jailed merely for possessing and consuming booze or cigarettes. It’s easy for someone like Lisa James, who lives and operates in a community where pot is de facto legal, to argue for continued criminalization. Her son is highly unlikely to be fed into the prison pipeline if he decides to try weed and is caught. “Thankfully, we talk about it and could correct it in our home.” Continuing the current pot ban is worse than mere hypocrisy. It is actively perpetuating inequality and an unjust legal system. And – once again and with feeling – it didn’t even protect Lisa James’ brother from becoming an addict.


  1. I used to be opposed to the legalization of marijuana…in fact I held strong views against it. I have now come around to the other side of the argument and think it is time to legalize it. I don’t necessarily think marijuana is harmless, but it certainly is no more harmful than alcohol, and is likely less harmful. I still worry about people using it and driving, or operating dangerous equipment, but we can work a system to deal with that (I think). In any event too many peoples lives have been ruined by imprisonment for marijuana and that is so unnecessary. I am hoping we have a good marijuana legalization initiative to vote on in the next election…I think it has a good chance of passing.

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