Arizona officials, including the governor, are closing ranks behind a top state official who sent a anti-pot email out to his staff from his state email account.
The screed was written by one of the chairs of the group opposing the legalization initiative on the November ballot, and passed along by the head of the Department of Economic Security, the state’s welfare office. State law clearly prohibits employees using state resources to campaign. But that didn’t stop the office of Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, from dismissing the matter.
“Our office has made it clear that electioneering using state resources is completely unacceptable,” Ducey said in a statement. “Based on our review, we do not believe this email meets that description.”
On Sunday, DES Director Tim Jeffries fired off an email to his underlings with the subject line: “Fwd: Alcohol “safer” than marijuana???????” — adding, “You be the judge.”
The rest of the email was penned by conservative radio host Seth Leibsohn, who is also a state leader in the campaign to sabotage the legalization initiative on the ballot, Proposition 205. The state passed medical marijuana in 2010.
Leibsohn speaks and writes in an orotund fashion that is sometimes hard to parse. Here’s how the email began:
“Seeing the increased trope [sic] of the MPP (Marijuana Policy Project) and various Campaigns promoting the safety of marijuana compared to alcohol, and the cleverness with which they deploy it, I did my best to blow that up here, as comprehensively as possible,” the email reads. “I couldn’t think of a normal magazine or outlet for such a piece, so I just published it myself. If you like, feel free to use or distribute at will. Thank you for all your work, thoughts, and help.”
In the email, Leibsohn included a link to an article he published in the conservative website American Greatness suggesting that the marijuana vs. alcohol argument “is a very misleading, even dangerous, message, based on bad social science and sophistic public deception.”
The Arizona Republic said that the state’s DES had “thousands” of employees.
Pro-reform forces in the state jumped on Jeffries’ obvious violation of state law.
“By circulating ‘information’ heavily slanted against Prop. 205, Director Jeffries has clearly acted in violation of the Attorney General’s July 2015 opinion prohibiting the use of public resources to influence the outcome of an election,” J.P. Holyoak, chairman of Arizona’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said in a statement. “To rectify the situation, we have asked him to circulate a link to facts we have compiled on same topic as the earlier email—the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol.
Holyoak says failing to distribute the facts on marijuana proves Jefferies email was rooted in bias.
“In truth, virtually every objective study ever conducted has concluded that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol,” Holyoak added. “Marijuana is less addictive, less toxic, and far less likely to be associated with violent behavior. By providing this additional information, Director Jeffries will expose employees to both sides of this important issue so they can judge the facts for themselves.”
Ducey said that the DES director was “simply sharing an article” and in no way trying to sway the election.
Some of the latest polls indicate that 50 percent of the voters intend to support Proposition 205 later this fall.
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