Photo courtesy of Eddie Poe
Community members assembled in the W.P. Carey Foundation Armstrong Great Hall at Arizona State University Tuesday evening for an Issues & Answers Forum regarding Proposition 205, which would allow for the regulation and taxation of marijuana in Arizona.
Brahm Resnik, anchor and reporter for 12 News in Phoenix, moderated the panel of two national experts and two local representatives. One argued in favor of legalization while the other argued against it. The purpose of the public forum was to facilitate a discussion to help voters become more informed on the facts prior to voting on November 8.
“I was here in favor of legalization just like I was back in 2010 for medical marijuana,” Tempe resident Crush Estrada said. “Being a disabled veteran and someone who has benefitted greatly from marijuana use, I felt it necessary to hear what the experts and locals had to say.”
Estrada, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical conditions upon his return home from war, says medical marijuana helped save him from the darkness of opioid addiction.
“After a marijuana DUI arrest in 2007, I was prescribed all sorts of opioids by the VA,” Estrada said. “Luckily I was able to take myself off of those medications but not everyone is able to do that.”
Mark Kleiman, director of the Crime and Justice Program at NYU’s Marron Institute, said there appears to be fewer opiate prescriptions written, fewer opiate overdose deaths and fewer people showing up for opiate disorder treatments in states where marijuana has been legalized.
While the evidence may in fact show that marijuana consumption can be used as a way to treat opiate addiction, attendee John Brodbeck says he’ll require more reassurance before he can support legalization for that purpose.
“I understand that there are certain disorders or illnesses that marijuana can treat, but just because that’s true doesn’t mean anyone should have access to it,” the Phoenix resident said. “Maybe if I went to Colorado or Washington and spoke to veterans or former opiate addicts I could form a different perspective.”
J.P Holyoak, an advocate for Proposition 205 and the Marijuana Policy Project Campaign Chairman, spoke extensively about the dire issue of opioid addiction that millions of people are currently facing in the United States.
“We have far too many people dying each year from opioids,” Holyoak said in frustration. “You look around the streets of Arizona and you can see first-hand, these people need help.”
Holyoak also challenged Maricopa County Attorney, Bill Montgomery, who opposed legalization. He accused Montgomery of being aligned with the opioid industry and received a generous applause from forum attendees after doing so.
Montgomery also struck a nerve with Estrada who doesn’t think that he is concerned with the people of Arizona when it comes to marijuana legalization.
“Mr. Montgomery was completely ignorant to the cannabis subject and how it affects our people and our communities as a whole,” Estrada said. “I know there’s plenty of good to come from legalization and I hope that the opposition can see that before they vote on November 8.”