Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, February 29, 2016

Head of marijuana legalization campaign in Arizona decribes himself as an "unapologetic conservative Republican"

Despite a cultural history and some political realities associating marijuana reform efforts with various liberal causes, I have personally long believed that a disaffinity for government-imposed pot prohibition resonates with various conservative principles.  Consequently, I am not entirely surprised to see this notable local article out of Arizona about a recent debate over marijuana legalization and the notable person leading up the marijuana reform campaign in the state.  The article is headlined "Tea Party stages debate on marijuana legalization," and here is how it gets started:

The face of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative is not what one might expect, and it just might be the greatest foil for those who would prefer the plant to remain illegal for nonmedical use in Arizona.

Medical marijuana dispensary owner J.P. Holyoak debated Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles over legalizing marijuana for recreational use at an event at Victory Theater, sponsored by the Graham County Tea Party and Graham County Republican Women Club, on Feb. 19.

Holyoak called himself an “unapologetic conservative Republican” who also happens to be the chairman of the Marijuana Policy Project-sponsored initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Holyoak was previously against marijuana but, after seeing how the plant improved the quality of life for his ill daughter, Reese, he thrust himself into its advocacy.

“I was somebody that, once upon a time, was naïve enough to believe what the government told me, and I listened to that and I was anti-marijuana,” he said. “But I’m also someone who believes in individual rights and individual responsibilities, and I abhor nanny-state government . . . Its (prohibition has) proven to be an utter and complete total failure.”

While Voyles had little to say in response to Holyoak’s points about reasons why cannabis should be legalized — including an economic benefit to Arizona with the creation of 21,000 jobs and an estimated $100 million in tax revenue for education rather than money spent on purchasing marijuana going to foreign drug cartels — Holyoak seemingly had an answer based on official statistics to counter every argument Voyles had against legalization. In one instance, Voyles claimed that studies showed an increase of teen use in states where medical marijuana or recreational marijuana was legal, and Holyoak debunked that by referencing an article from Forbes Magazine that listed fewer teens using marijuana than 15 years ago and displaying Arizona’s own youth survey that showed teen use decreased after medical marijuana was legalized.

At one point in the evening, Holyoak told the crowd about his daughter, Reese, who has the rare disease Aicardi syndrome that caused her to have multiple seizures every day. As a parent desperate to find anything that could help his daughter, Holyoak turned to marijuana after the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act was passed.

“The difference between marijuana and no marijuana for her is literally the difference between life and death,” Holyoak said. “She went from 25 to 35 seizures a day and being nonresponsive — she still has an occasional seizure, about every five or six months she has one — but today she’s walking independently, almost running, being herself, getting into stuff, playing, laughing, smiling, and generally enjoying her very high quality of life. I find it offensive that the U.S. government says that marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug with no medicinal value. We know that’s not true. It’s inappropriate, and I find it even more offensive to try to defend the position of keeping it a Schedule 1 drug.”

After recounting his daughter’s experience, Voyles chose that moment to tow the federal government’s line that marijuana has no medicinal value, a statement that garnered groans from the audience.

Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink


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