Arizonans will soon vote on Proposition 205, an initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use in our state. The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) opposes this legislation. This has nothing to do with judging how Arizonans want to spend their free time and far more to do with our beliefs around better health and healthcare. AzHHA President & CEO Greg Vigdor and Robin Schaeffer, executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association, wrote an opinion piece that just ran in the Arizona Daily Star. You can read the complete column below.
Whether you agree or disagree – we hope you are willing to keep the dialogue open about the important health issues facing the people of Arizona. Meaningful discourse, regardless of position, demonstrates we are willing to work together. And working together is key to our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!
There’s at least one issue on Arizona’s General Election ballot that crosses political and partisan lines — public health. All Arizonans, regardless of our stance on just about any other issue, can agree public health and safety are paramount to our well-being, productivity and quality of life.
That’s why, as two of Arizona’s leading health and health-care organizations, we’ve come together to oppose Proposition 205, the initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. For hospitals and health professionals across our state, the issue comes down to this: Our mission is to help patients and protect public health. Prop. 205 does neither.
The evidence and experience in other states suggests strongly that marijuana legalization would only exacerbate Arizona’s existing public-health problems.
The picture in states like Colorado that have already legalized marijuana is bleak: More marijuana-related hospitalizations. Greater access to and usage of pot among teens. Increased accidental poisonings of children. Higher rates of marijuana-related DUIs and traffic fatalities.
Already, marijuana is the second leading substance for which people receive drug treatment, and a major cause for visits to hospital emergency rooms. Federal research indicates that legalization and increased availability will lead to expanded use of marijuana – compounding its ramifications.
Is that what we want for Arizona?
Perhaps even worse is all that we don’t know about the risks of legalizing marijuana. For example: if a pregnant woman uses marijuana, it is unclear how the drug may impact prenatal brain development. Additionally, some research has suggested THC — the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — can pass from nursing mothers to their baby. We don’t know what that means for the child.
As health professionals, we believe in research and sound evidence. The simple fact is, voters don’t have enough of either in order to make an informed decision about marijuana legalization.
Arizonans should just say “No” to those who want our state to volunteer itself for this statewide drug experiment.
The safest course of action is to wait and watch. Before long, we will know the full range of impacts in states such as Colorado and Washington that have already legalized recreational marijuana — and Arizona voters will have the ability to make a fully-informed decision.
In the meantime, Arizona faces real and mounting public health challenges. There are the high-profile threats posed by communicable diseases, like Zika, as well as the ongoing struggles with heart disease, cancer and other ailments. Chronic shortages among physicians and nurses each loom in the near future for our growing state.
Needless to say, Arizona communities and families already struggle with the devastation of substance abuse. Expanding access to a dangerous drug like marijuana will only put more Arizonans at risk.
On Nov. 8, please join us in voting “No” on Prop 205.