In a democracy, or a republic such as ours elections, laws and polices are ideally a reasoned discussion on ideas. Each side presents its positions for or against and through a sometimes messy and cumbersome process the best idea wins. That's the ideal but we know that often the battle over ideas becomes very partisan, personal and divisive with each side accusing the other of nefarious or malicious motives like discrimination or trying to impose its values on the other. And sometimes as we have seen that debate is cut off by a Judge or Court that usurps the right of the people to debate ideas and allow them to percolate through our political system to form consensus or compromise and that usurpation in turn causes more divisiveness in a society.
One of the ways in the western U.S. we often settle the debate is through voter-approved initiatives. In Arizona ballot propositions are usually always a part of the voting process. In my humble estimation they are generally a really bad form of governance. The AZ Constitution mandates that whatever the voters approve be written in stone. Hence the legislature or courts have almost no power to tweak approved propositions no matter how badly they turn out to be in practice. (Except of course for the US Supreme Court that has no problem with invalidating a voter approved proposition, i.e. Marriage Amendment). Ballot Propositions should be the rare exception and not the norm. That being said we are approaching another election with at least one proposition: the legalization of Marijuana for Recreational Use. (The Proposition has not yet been certified for the ballot but likely will be.)
So let the battle of ideas begin! You can start forming your ideas by reading the entire proposed ballot initiative for the Legalization of Marijuana cleverly called the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act to make it sound neat and controlled. The text is 20 pages long and very detailed. It can be found at the AZ Secretary of State website (http://apps.azsos.gov/election/2016/general/ballotmeasuretext/I-08-2016.pdf ). The wording of the proposition is such that it tries to make legalizing recreational use of marijuana something that the State will carefully regulate and of course tax. Based on what has happened in Colorado the last thing that State has been able to do is to regulate it. That will be the case here as well again since the AZ Constitution bars legislators and courts from changing voter-approved initiatives.
Many of you maybe thinking, "but Father live and let live, you're a fan of smaller government and less regulation so what's the big deal?" Yes, however smaller government and less regulation doesn't mean no regulation especially when it comes to promoting the greater common good and enhancing human flourishing. Simply put legalizing marijuana for recreational use is a bad idea.
Still the pro legalizing side will try to present you with reasons why it looks like a good idea. Ideas such as: the taxes will be a good source of revenue for our state or legalization will free up time, space, money and effort in our criminal justice and law enforcement systems or marijuana is not addictive and generally harmless and the loudest agreement in favor: after all alcohol is legal so why shouldn't pot be?
Over the next few months I will give you the reasons all those above-mentioned arguments are simply false. But for now you can begin to educate yourself by reading the information compiled by Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy (http://www.arizonansforresponsibledrugpolicy.org). They have compiled a list of facts and articles that clearly demonstrate that legalizing marijuana for recreational use is a bad idea and in states where it is legal the evidence clearly supports this. Additionally our Bishop and the Arizona Catholic Conference are opposed to this ballot initiative.
I for one will be working to convince our fellow citizens that legalizing marijuana for recreation use is a bad idea. I hope that you will too. Stand with me and prevent Arizona from "going to pot" in November.
Love, Fr. John B.
P.S. All the items on our Gift Registry for the Convent have been purchased! Many thanks. A few bigger items are still needed: a refrigerator, patio furniture and a TV.