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home : opinions : columns September 15, 2014

3/27/2014 6:00:00 AM
Talk of the Town: Let's get to the truth about pot
Special to the Courier

I believe in an America that promotes opportunity, not addiction. "War Against Weed is Lost" by Toni Denis points out the void in public education about the realities of legalized marijuana. Sadly, many continue to choose profits over children, promoting increased drug access and blocking attempts to fund the education that the public and people like Denis clearly need.

Let's take her points one by one.

#1: Treating pot like alcohol will make it safer for our kids.

How would our children possibly benefit from the commercialization of an addictive industry that promotes a drug for profit? For businesses to make money on marijuana, they have to engage new users and promote more frequent use.

Since legalization in Colorado last year, competition for pot profits has sparked a new kind of weed war. Marketing efforts to increase sales and grow more potent pot have intensified. Ben Cort's "An Inside Look at Colorado's Money-Hungry Pot Industry" (Mar. 13, 2014, CADCA.org), notes that retailers now offer home deliveries, discounts, and $1 joints to anyone showing a ski pass. Now that's something to consider: stoned snowboarders whisking by on the slopes!

According to Cort, "green crack" is already available in Colorado, so strong (20-30 percent THC) that one hit puts the smoker on his back. Marijuana edibles proliferate in forms inherently attractive to children, the industry's future consumers. Gummies, fruit soda, suckers, candy, and baked goods are being sold. Some are using cartoon characters to sell their products.

Cartoon characters to market an addictive drug? Really.

#2: Our prisons are full of marijuana offenders.

This is simply false. Less than one half of one percent of this nation's state prisoners are there for marijuana only, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The marijuana lobby wants you to believe we have only two choices: incarceration or legalization. Not true. Arizona is a leader in alternatives to incarceration. Our drug laws prohibit incarceration for marijuana possession or use until a third conviction. Our laws not only promote but mandate treatment - both for the first and second offenses. Only after an offender has been through our system of drug courts, treatment and second chances may the judge even think about sending them to prison. (ARS §13-901.01).

Marijuana legalization does not mean fewer arrests. It means more DUIs. Traffic fatalities in Colorado involving drivers impaired by marijuana have increased by 114% from 2006-2011. (HIDTA Report, Aug. 2013). That state just launched a public service campaign to dissuade driving "high."

#3: Government will save money.

Legal marijuana means more minors in possession, more public use offenses, and sadly, more children in homes with parents legally abusing an addictive substance. Across this nation, there are three times the number of alcohol-related arrests than marijuana arrests every year. (Am. Society of Addiction Medicine, 2012).

Legalizing yet another addictive substance is a looming public health nightmare. For every tax dollars collected from alcohol sales, 10 more are spent to address alcohol-related criminal conduct, treatment, unemployment, and health care. (Nat. Inst. on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). The intangibles are even more costly: emotional consequences to children of alcoholics, broken homes, and the impact to our child welfare system. Arizona's child welfare population is on the rise and substance abuse is a significant factor.

#4: Regulation and control will cripple the cartels.

Regulation is a euphemism for taxation. The only thing more addictive than drugs are taxes. Taxation adds to the cost. Legalization means a bigger appetite for marijuana and a bigger market for the cartels. The black market in Colorado is thriving, as Harry Smith discovered in his recent interview with an underground dealer there. ("Marijuana in America: Colorado Pot Rush," CNBC.)

Teens in Arizona use alcohol at twice the rate they use marijuana, according to the Arizona Youth Survey. Why? It is accessible. Use by kids of marijuana is on the rise as access

to marijuana increases under the guise of "regulation."

Responsible adults should not rush to embrace a legal industry that makes its money from addiction. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. We must all unite to do everything we can to create environments within which all children can thrive and succeed. Inform yourself with facts, not the myths promoted by an industry motivated by financial gain at the expense of addiction.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine advises us of the significant public health threat posed by legal marijuana and urges public education. Ms. Denis's article illustrates the need.

The single most powerful action we can take to combat drug abuse is prevention. Prevention works.

Sheila Polk is the Yavapai County Attorney and co-Chair of MATFORCE, the Yavapai County Substance Abuse Coalition.

Related Stories:
• Column: War against weed is lost; all that's left is shouting
• Talk of the Town: Marijuana facts need substantiating
• Column: Legalizing recreational drugs is a bad idea

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Article comment by: Report the link between Polk and Yee... the people deserve the truth.

Your elected County Attorney Polk is connected to
State Senator Yee, who refused to even let a bill for Vet's with PTSD to be heard... and that is just the tip of the 6 million dollar iceberg.


Posted: Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Article comment by: informal poll -

So we have 76 comments and out of that about 6 or 7 are against MJ and the other 70 or so are in favor of common sense.

So by about a 90% to 10% margin it seems that Attorney Polk's position is quite a bit out of line with those she may represent.

Good to know.


Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Article comment by: Anti-Logic No Longer Believable

Rhetoric tends to grow thin- much like the boy who cried wolf. Government rhetoric like Shelia-speak has been debuncted since Roswell. Do you really want to support a RACIST inspired law from the 1930's? Really? We are in a time Whalen what adults do behind closed doors is THEIR busines. The voting public has spoken and will continue to speak with future votes. If your idea of leadership is to tell me what to believe, you have irrevocably broken the trust you position demands to lead. I can't wait for you ultimate unraveling- I hope it won't cost the city too much.

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Article comment by: @ your biggest problem

Ironically, one of dispensaries that is successfully serving our community advertises a percentage discount equal to most senior discounts being offered everywhere for everything except booze, only instead groceries for those on a fixed income the offer applies only to first responders.
Waiting for a call back to see if the clerical segment of that profession can qualify.

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Article comment by: Her

Why do you insist that something so beneficial to many is so bad? Because your agenda is to keep court systems busy, keep jails full, keep some adults employed, and keep a stern hand on what WE ADULTS choose to do in the privacy of our home? Don't you see that your argument is based on laws that were instituted in the 1930's for race-based discrimination purposes? Our founding fathers grew and used pot, you know, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? They would vote to legalize it. Pot is not the gateway drug - that's been proven to be ALCOHOL - so why not BAN ALCOHOL? You clearly have an agenda that is NOT in the best interest of the voting public - doesn't THAT mean anything to you? The public MAJORITY approved this multiple times - it's now the WILL OF THE PEOPLE in this state, not the will of some wanna-be politician disguised as a DA. Get a real cause, sheila, because this one has already been decided by the people of Arizona. 3 times, at that.

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Article comment by: @ biggest problem, false argument fails -

Your arument fails when a mechanical engineer that has used for 45 years outdesigns and engineers an entire team from Motorola or Intel.

Or the musician that used for 45 years that can play and recall more music than 5 jukeboxes.

Or the other 5.4 million people that use marijuana an average of 300 days per year?

Trying to pin your lack of exposure on a couple 20 or 30 year olds that you deem lacking in intelligence... only indicates your lack of knowledge on the topic.

And that is expected thanks to the stigma that Polk and her ilk wish to continue enforcing. They will try and scare you by asking if you want to be operated on by a Dr. that used within the last 8-10 hours or drive on the roads with others that used withing the last 24 hours. Well the "truth' is you already are and have been for decades.

The peak of marijuna use by youth was by 18 year olds in 1979 at about 30%. Well guess what, those 'kids' are now about 53... yes the baby boomers! So where is the huge dip in sat scores and college graduation rates? It doesn't exist.

The same group is also the fastest increasing in use now! So yeah... the facts just don't equal Polks 'truth's or your proclamations.

Stop the stigma... and you will have your eyes opened very wide.

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Article comment by: oh .

Why do we have to use the criminal justice system to prevent use of a drug that is less hazardous than booze and cigarets? Sure pot has got issues and is not good for everybody and actually bad for some people. Even if you think it is bad for everybody - why insist of the criminal justice approach? (Cigarets are bad, but we don't arrest 750,000 people a year for using them. Obesity is bad but we don't arrest 750,000 people a year for being fat. Booze is bad for you, but we don't arrest 750,000 adults a year for having a drink in their house) Sure we will bust them for driving drunk - but that's not an argument for arresting every adult who "has a beer after dinner".

I just don't see the criminal justice approach as anything but a miserable failure at this point... no matter what you think about pot.

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Article comment by: Biggest Problem

whether pot is legalized or not, are the folks who actually believe pot has no lasting negative effects, that its safe. It's not. Ask yourself the next time you get incomprehensively bad service from a 20 or 30 something cashier, waiter, etc., whether that person has a medical marijuana card. Then ask that person. Pot hurts cognition, and the effects are lasting. It should be legalized so I can legally ask about pot use of potential employees and not waste my time on users.

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Article comment by: Rita Shryock

No, Ms Polk, prevention does not work. Your own statistics prove that.

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Article comment by: Fasting Badger

Polkís anti-pot campaign is akin to a melodramatic rendition of The Emperor has no Clothes. Reading her comments lately has been a fascinating study in one personís professional deconstruction. Her self-inflicted slide in credibility is as compelling as witnessing an unfolding train wreck. I canít help but feel a little sorry for Sheila as she publicly unravels like old lace from the bonnet of a Carrie Nation doll.
The runaway, rogue system of confiscation of cash and assets from suspects (real & imagined) has had a corrupting effect on law enforcement and the judicial system. It does absolutely nothing to benefit the greater social good, and it robs valuable resources and time from the more pressing matters of public safety and overwhelmed courts. ...

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: Your Friendly Neighborhood Drug Dealer

Thanks Sheila Polk for fighting to keep marijuana illegal. You are keeping me in business! I've got a sweet deal with all the kids in this town and I'd sure hate for legalization to mess it all up.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: A thought to consider

Ms. Polk should not be mixing her real life job as a County Prosecutor with her pet project, the Matforce program. The Matforce agenda is based and solely dependent on archaic and outdated techniques of manipulating public opinion through propoganda that intentionaly over exagerates. These tactics are not a legitimate attempt to educate, nor be informative. The sole purpose of the message is to instill fear and loathing. For the most part Matforce focuses its efforts trying to scare young and impressionable children there is a boogy man. That program is a failure,and history has already more than proven it so. I would argue that it circumvents any efforts made in the home, and essentially dangles the carrot in front of school children at younger and younger ages. For Gods sake, the head of the program is telling us that 25% of the children subjected to it are now willing to admit without shame that they are regular users. Please Stop helping and just go away!
In my humble opinion Ms. Polk you are wrong to use your public position in such a way. I also believe you make a huge mistake trying to convince adults using tactics meant for children. You are still there because no one else has ran against you. I pray that changes.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: To Mr One Toke, Alias, What is lost cannot be recovered

I recognize your posts and writing style. You offer nothing but jingles and repetition with no substantiation. So once again Mr One Toke, you wrote: "Does it represent just one more moral and behavioral decline in a continuous slippery slope of the decline of our civilization. Definitely."

What moral decline are you referring? Slavery was abolished, women gained the right to vote, though they are still not equal. Gay rights have almost obtained equal protection. Are these examples of what you refer to as "more moral and behavioral decline"? History tells us there have always been low-life bottom feeders present in humanity. You can't blame that on marijuana or any other drug. When you look at these last two hundred years and the examples I gave, we have grown morally, not declined.

You and your ilk failed once with alcohol prohibition, why do you persist in doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result? By any accounting method, the war on drugs has been a failure. As with alcohol prohibition, we created problems we didn't have before. That is the true slippery slope we have been on and it has cost us as a nation greatly.

I believe you are in law enforcement, following Ms Polk, you definitely have some skin in the game, not for the right reasons though.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: @bad Stuff You got it!

Remember the elections where the MAJORITY voted to pass medical marijuana? THREE TIMES? That's who responds here. THE MAJORITY of voters so no need to insult YOU because you are now the MINORITY on this issue. You get where this is going? Because a big mouth like you should know where you sit. And it's on the LOSER side at this point. Get used to it.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: Patent for Synthetic THC

Sorry - the patent the government holds is for a synthetic form of THC that they developed in the 70's. And sure they do!! Check YOUR facts, jack. And no, I don't even smoke, YOU?

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: What is lost cannot be recovered

Will the legalization of marijuana result in the end of society as we know it? Probably not.

Does it represent just one more moral and behavioral decline in a continuous slippery slope of the decline of our civilization. Definitely.

One day we'll wake up and realize that we've made some very serious mistakes in creating a selfish, hedonistic, immature society with misplaced priorities. Nothing good will come from that and it will be too late to correct it.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: Polk And Pot

Sorry, Sheila, the only thing addictive about pot is the magnetism its consumers seem to have on prosecutors who are determined to give them prison time. It's how the prison/industrial system works.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: Zig E.

@ Been there done that - Polk got no one but you. U.S. Patent # 6630507 Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants, Oct 7, 2003.
" Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia. " So the patent does exist and marijuana has its medical benefits, among others. Therefor the argument to keep it illegal as a schedule 1 drug falls flat, as does your post.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: Fact checker

sheila Polk once claimed that 90% of people who use meth once become addicted, which is absolutely not true. She claimed that a make-believe "meth epidemic" had led to a "dramatic increase" in violent crime when violent crime had been steadily decreasing all over the country and meth never really got as popular as either heroin or cocaine. Then she said that states that had legalized marijuana for medical use had experienced a "dramatic increase" in traffic fatalities -- not true. Smoking pot makes kids drop out of school and one-quarter of all Yavapai County high school seniors use it on a regular basis. Which begs the question of how so many potheads managed to stay in school if their drug of choice causes dropping out. One of those last has to be false. It happens that they both are. But now, oh, happy day, Sheila Polk is going to tell the truth. And we know she's telling the truth because she says so, right?

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: Greenz Zilla

#4: Regulation and control will cripple the cartels.

The Colorado experiment shows the magnitude of the demand, in part that was being satisfied by drug networks. Consider if both brands of pot require the same inputs to produce the crop, and where one market is legal, taxed and convenient, and it's competitor is imported through a cartel, at high risk of violence, confiscation, legal cost, but is not taxed but poses a risk for the buyer, then you can't say that regulation won't hurt the cartels. The illegal networks still have business goodwill, to make up for any shortage or price spikes, but the law of supply and demand means their market is ever shrinking.

I posit that the "threshold" is legality. That the network has connections to more than the weed. How to break the disease (dangerous drugs) is to break the vector.

The people who are for you are concerned. Also, you get back the trust and cooperation of a whole class of people (remember Colorado's pent demand), and geezers who are fully justified to be skeptical of an increasing corportization, repression and militarization of and by the system. Just thought you should know.


Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Article comment by: We're Doomed

So where exactly is the "truth" in your article Sheila?

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014
Article comment by: Been there done that, the B.S comes from both sides. Polks got you on this one

lol, You can't have a patent for THC? need to smoke another one and go lay down. What a joke some of you are. A patent for something created by nature.

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014
Article comment by: You wouldn't know the truth If it hit you in the face

The truth? Pharmaceutical drugs kill and mame more people in one day than pot has in the history of mankind. FACT. Alcohol is the true gateway drug. FACT. The federal government has a patent for THC - proving the medicinal properties are both relevant and valid.

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014
Article comment by: God Help Us

Every time I read one of these so-called marijuana facts columns of Sheila Polk's I grow more cynical. I do not want to believe that our County Attorney is dishonest. Some people would say that every elected official is dishonest. When it comes to the execution of justice honesty is more important than it is in other public offices. The accused especially when they are poor are among the most vulnerable people in the United States.

When the the Yavapai County Attorney uses Arizona state prison statistics instead of using the Yavapai County incarceration statistics it really does stick in my craw. If Sheila Polk wants to enlighten us about how many people are incarcerated for marijuana why doesn't she start with her own jail?

If Sheila Polk wants to enlighten us about the effects of marijuana on traffic fatalities in Colorado why not tell the truth? Traffic fatalities have declined in Colorado since marijuana was legalized. Sheila Polk knows this and very carefully makes a statement that is technically true but intended to deceive. She is creating the false impression that highway fatalities have increased.

It is demoralizing to know that our high officer of the court that is charged with bringing forth the truth... is picking her words and numbers for the purpose of deceit.

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014
Article comment by: To:

Maybe read all the comments before adding your voice to the din. Now we've come full circle.

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