Why “Yes” on Prop 205?

The reason to vote Yes on 205, is because the No Campaign has worked so diligently to turn this election into a referendum on the continuation of the drug war.

The same people who fought against medical marijuana passage, have repeatedly attempted to undermine the initiative since passage, and blocked legislative legalization of recreational marijuana at every turn, are now running one of the more dishonest campaigns I have ever seen (What Are Crafters Of Anti-Pot Ads Smoking?). Major funding ($500K) for which is coming from the maker of a demonstrably lethal opioid (Fentanyl Maker Donates Big…). A company who admitted in shareholder communications that they made the donation due to fear of competition from legal marijuana sales.

This coalition has fought safe marijuana legislation every step of the way. This group of individuals and organizations have known this was coming if the legislature did not take action. Major policy conferences have discussed the necessity of legislative action for the last decade in order to stave off ballot initiatives. The No Campaign coalition chose to reject cooperation with marijuana policy reformers and left them only one path forward.

Citizen propositions are a bad way to decriminalize and legalize, but the Arizona GOP not only failed to provide their own legislative remedy, they flatly denied (didn’t allow out of committee) Rep. Mark Cardenas’ attempt to do this the right way 18 months ago (AZ Lawmaker Proposes Legalizing Pot). Then instead of coming out against Prop 205 by waving alternate legislation in our faces and promising to pass something better in the next session, they have run a campaign of almost total falsehood and fear mongering pushing a dangerous and discredited narrative that harkens back to the reefer madness campaigns of the mid-20th Century (WaPo Fact Checks Governor Ducey).

Much of what none of us like in Proposition 205 (Full Text) is there only because of the openly hostile legislative and executive state leadership who cannot be trusted to honestly enact the legislation if they are left any discretion. Thus you get industry seats on the licensing board, the automatic approval of existing dispensaries after a certain time period, the new dedicated enforcement arm, etc. It is almost all because those that want to see the end of the murderous and destructive marijuana prohibitions cannot trust our elected officials without tying their hands.

Ending the drug war is about ending over 15,000 arrests each year in Arizona for simple possession (DPS – Crime in Arizona 2015). It is about ending injurious police raids. It is about ending unnecessary and expensive police micro-management of non-violent individual decision making. It is about ending the practice of throwing fellow citizens in cages simply because they want to consume some arbitrarily disfavored substance.

Many people’s lives are truly destroyed by the drug war, many are actually sent to prison, many actually killed or injured. But even if you dismiss those more serious consequences as marginal, if you think 15,000 new arrest records every year (many felonies) on mostly young men, don’t harm our communities and economy, then you aren’t paying attention. 15,000 new arrest records every year, for just holding a joint, records which follow young men and women throughout their lives, on job, school and volunteer applications (Facts About Marijuana Law In AZ). The drug war has been dragging down and tearing apart our communities for decades (particularly lower-income communities who are far less able to protect themselves from the legal onslaught) and we need to end it (How The War On Drugs Is Destroying Black America).

Prop 205 is written the way it is because our state’s powers-that-be made it clear with their past actions that they wanted this drug war. Their deceptive messaging and campaigning since Prop 205 came out have proven that they still want this drug war.

Famously, the founders called on America to be a nation rooted in self-governance. “Self-governance” however, was not defined as democratic, representative or some other form of majoritarian governance. It was, and should still be, defined as confining and restraining formal governance (i.e. limiting the state), so that we may each self govern our own lives.

I cannot speak to what value or enjoyment any individual gains from consumption of marijuana, oxycodone, fentanyl, or any other drug that I don’t use, anymore than another can speak to what value or enjoyment I gain from a glass of scotch or the occasional cigar. But these decisions, and the complicated, sometimes difficult tradeoffs they entail, are not improved by the introduction of state police power, to invade, penalize, and brand individuals’ lives because they happen to have chosen to consume something that the sausage factory of government policy development has stuck with an “illegal” label.

There is no guarantee, but the process of individual decision making incentivizes truth and accuracy because consequences and benefits are most closely aligned when we make decisions for ourselves. As Milton Friedman once noted:

You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money… if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.

Individuals are intimately and directly connected to the costs and benefits of their own decisions over their own lives, while government has little direct connection to the costs and benefits of its decisions. Instead its decisions are aligned with costs and benefits of indirect connections, those of entrenched interests who benefit from taxpayer dollars, regulatory mandates, and legislative prohibitions. Thus logically, we see government policy and messaging advancing not the best interest of the general citizen, but instead the narratives (often false narratives) of these same entrenched interests (such as a prescription drug manufacturer facing competition from legalized marijuana).

For the individual, allowing government to decide what is healthy or not, what is productive or not, what is moral or not, is likely the worst basis for informed belief, and thus we should be working diligently to take these decisions back from government. We certainly should not be confirming government’s authority over areas which should properly be in our personal spheres of decision making.

I cannot support a referendum to continue imposing police power on people’s peaceful private decisions. I cannot support enforcing laws against individual’s rightful self-governance. Thus again, because the No Campaign has worked so hard, in all of their public messaging, to make this ballot initiative about confirming government’s authority to arrest and cage people for decisions that should be theirs alone, I will vote Yes on Proposition 205.

It is an imperfect piece of law, though not as bad as many claim. However, it makes the most important thing clear to our government officials: We are ending this destructive, immoral Drug War. Help us or we will do it without you.

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