April 20 was a big day for Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
While marijuana users in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada were enjoying the first stoner’s holiday in the era of marijuana legalization—approved in all four of those states on Election Day in the fall—Ducey was in Atlanta, taking a victory lap for his role in handing legalization, which a majority of Americans support, its lone loss on Election Day.
And he was happy to employ Donald Trump-worthy alternative facts while doing it.
In Arizona, thanks in part to an opposition campaign funded by a pharmaceutical company developing a synthetic marijuana drug and by anti-weed, Trump-supporting casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Ducey’s constituents rejected Prop. 205—which would have legalized small amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and over—by a 52 to 48 margin.
As the Phoenix New Times reported, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, the co-chair of the No on 205 campaign—who, judging by her Twitter feed, has an unhealthy fixation with cannabis prohibition bordering on total obsession—publicly thanked Ducey for lending his fundraising prowess.
Polk credited Ducey for raising “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for the effort to keep marijuana illegal for responsible adults, which in no way capitalized on Reefer Madness-level disinformation and tired old stoner stereotypes as an excuse to keep putting nonviolent offenders in jail.
As Ducey said on April 20, Prop. 205 lost because it had lots of money, because “pastors” preached against it from the pulpit while moms repeated scare tactics to their kids at kitchen tables—and because marijuana legalization itself was sold on a lie.
Specifically, the tax revenue flowing into state coffers elsewhere—Colorado and Washington alone netted $450 million from legal cannabis sales in 2016, cash that’s funding schools, filling potholes and allowing once-moribund small towns to build new city halls (and hire cops)—wouldn’t appear in Arizona. If cannabis was legalized in Arizona, Ducey said, the state would be totally unique: it would lose money…
“But once you got past enforcement, bureaucracy and the social cost of the legalization, there would be no money for our schools,” Ducey said, according to the Arizona Republic. “It (Proposition 205) was actually a net financial loser for our state.”
Since Prop. 205 didn’t pass, there’s no way of knowing exactly what would have happened.
Wait—that’s not true at all!
We have budget forecasts for just this purpose. And according to the official financial forecast from the state’ Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Arizona schools would have had an extra $38 million in 2019, and an extra $70 million in 2020—or more than half of the extra money for education Ducey included in this current budget.
So where did Ducey come up with his special math?
As the Republic reported, it came from the anti-marijuana group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which has “facts” coming from Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM)—the group that insists, despite federal data to the contrary, that legalization has led to an increase in youth use, and which has hosted Ducey at the Atlanta event on 4/20—on repeat.
Apparently, SAM did a study that estimated the “cost” of legalization in Rhode Island to be $61.2 million a year, a figure that includes the bill for “increased ER visits,” employee absenteeism and hash-lab explosions. No such study exists for Arizona, but SAM says that the Rhode Island numbers can be neatly “extrapolated” and applied to Arizona.
Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Gov. Ducey, told the Republic via email that “the Colorado experience shows us that there are many unintended costs from recreational marijuana,” but did not provide any official, third-party, unbiased projections.
Meaning, in a real way, Ducey was talking out of his ass.
Not that this should be any surprise. According to SAM, anything remotely bad that happens while cannabis is legal happens because cannabis is legal.
Homelessness, for example.
Note the source of the last “fact.”
It’s the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, whose notorious report in 2016, using questionable data, has been the de-facto anti-legalizers’ bible ever since. HIDTA, you’ll recall, is funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the office of the Drug Czar, which is prohibited by law from publishing anything that would encourage marijuana legalization.
Ducey’s bullshit turn is offensive, but in the Trump era, where Bible-thumping creationists who think the dinosaurs existed 6,000 years ago and that today’s seniors can live to be 600 years old and build a big giant boat just like Noah can get elected to Congress even after committing assault, it’s barely noticeable.
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.
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