Reefer madness in Maricopa County

13 Jan 2014 12:32 pm
Posted by: Donna

AZ Rep Ruben Gallego (D-South Phoenix) and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery (R) appeared on Channel 3’s Politics Unplugged on Sunday evening to debate legalizing marijuana. Unfortunately, the show is not available online yet so I’ll have to do a play-by-play from watching it but do try to catch it if you can because it was awesome. I’m adding my own biased editorial comments as well because I’m fully on Team Legalize, just so you know.

It started with Carrie Pena reporting on Colorado’s experience with their new law legalizing recreational MJ. Turns out it was gangbusters the first couple of days, with the shops running out of weed! There’s a shock for you.

Gallego started off by noting that the War On DrugsTM no longer works and is only fought in certain areas, such as the district he represents in South Phoenix and that pot is no more harmful than alcohol, which is legal. Montgomery harrumphed in response that this was a “false promise”. He cited the public health costs of alcohol and cigarette smoking in Arizona but, oddly, didn’t propose banning either of those things. Too many of his fellow old white guys enjoy indulging in those habits, maybe?

Gallego said that impaired drivers will be there whether it’s on the black market or not, to which Montgomery responded that while Colorado had a 16% drop in overall traffic fatalities, it had a 114% increase in MJ-related ones. Oh no! That’s a really, really big percentage! But what does it mean, number-wise? I tried to find the exact numbers, and maybe Attorney Montgomery’s office can help me with this, but the only link I could find was this one, which cited a 2011 report that is only available on Lexis-Nexis. If one person died one year, and two died the next, then that is a 100% increase in deaths. Citing statistics like that is meaningless without a full context.

Gallego pointed out that MJ can be regulated in a manner to stop underage use and raise tax revenues. He said that taking it out of the black market is most important considering that so many people use it already. Montgomery responded that youth use is up in Arizona, claiming an “18% increase from 2006 to 2012”. Again, a percentage without context, and hasn’t recreational pot been illegal here that entire time? Really, Montgomery does not have a leg to stand on here for continued criminalization of weed.

Montgomery went on to claim that the black market in Colorado still has lower prices than legal market. I’m sure he’s right about that and I bet that happened in 1933 too, after booze was legalized. The moonshiners wanted to get rid of their stock at whatever price they could get for it. The whole point of legalizing something is to get rid of the black market. Legalization works, by the way. There is no illegal market for cigarettes or booze that I’m aware of.

Gallego insisted, again, that MJ would only be sold to 21 year olds, and that it’s still easier for kids to get pot on the black market (now) than alcohol. Montgomery responded that a quarter of high school students use MJ. “Their risk aversion to marijuana is less than what it is toward cigarettes!” Again, no mention from him of a desire to ban cigarettes. Montgomery does have strong words toward legislators “either ignorant or indifferent to our costs” and those who “want to become the authors to our societal suicide”. Again, no mention from him about banning alcohol, which has contributed to a whole lot of social and health problems.

Ruben Gallego ended by reiterating his point that that the “drug war and drug laws are being fought in South Phoenix. They are not being fought in parts of Scottsdale and North Phoenix”. He’s exactly right about that. Pot is de facto legal in the wealthier environs of Greater Phoenix. Everyone knows that. Including Bill Montgomery, who refuses to look at the entire cost of his beloved drug war. How much money is lost to the economy when millions of people are put into the criminal justice system and their educational and career prospects ruined because of pot? And it’s still easier for kids to get pot. Speaking of which, it seems that the whole argument for keeping pot illegal for adults to use has come down to “dear God what about the children??!?” When all you have left is peddling fear to overanxious suburban parents, it’s time to give up.

County Attorney Montgomery had the final word and went off on a bizarre tirade against Harvard grads. His intent might have been to rib Gallego, who went to Harvard, but he also took a hilarious jab at the state’s Attorney General. “What is it with Harvard trained politicians, whether it’s a law schools or undergrad, bad ideas, can’t follow laws, cheat on their wives…” Yes, Bill Montgomery slut-shamed Tom Horne! Which is fitting since anti-pot crusaders do sound an awful lot like Rick Santorum whining about premarital sex.


  1. Comment by Phoenix Justice on January 13, 2014 2:31 pm

    It would have been nice if Rep. Gallego had pointed out how much money the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office receives in “drug forfeitures” and if that isn’t the real reason CA Montgomery is against LRT of marijuana.

  2. Comment by Suzanne on January 14, 2014 6:38 pm

    “since anti-pot crusaders do sound an awful lot like Rick Santorum whining about premarital sex.”
    That was funny.

    Phoenix Justice raises an interesting point.

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