This week I interviewed Jon Gettel, Director of Tucson, Arizona NORML chapter. Here is our conversation:
Q: What is the primary goal of your organization?
A: AZ4NORML (Tucson NORML) works to educate the public about the benefits of medical cannabis, the safety of recreational marijuana, and the value of industrial hemp.
Q: How many members do you have?
A: We have about 75 active members and close to 1000 on our email list.
Q: What is the biggest issue facing your state today, in regards to cannabis?
A: As a state that is close to the Mexican border, we are affected by marijuana being brought across the border. In fact, estimates are that marijuana represents 75% of all drugs brought across the border. This Mexican Cannabis is of value to consumers because economically it is the only marijuana many people can afford. The arrests for simple possession are going up around the state as the border patrol adds more checkpoints and the Universities crack down on students.
Q: What are you doing to tackle this issue?
A: We continue to point out the waste of finite resources that could be used for education or healthcare. We continue to publicize the arrest rate and the ruin that is brought upon our citizens when there are arrested for this relatively harmless herb.
Q: If marijuana were legalized in your state, what is the projected tax revenue?
A: A conservative estimate is over $13 million dollars annually. We think the potential is much greater. Prohibition has artificially inflated the price of cannabis and with a sensible policy towards cannabis, prices could fall and taxes would increase.
Q: How close is your state to legalizing marijuana?
A: Arizona citizens are generally libertarian leaning and our citizens have voted for medical marijuana twice in our history. Our politicians at the time felt that the voters did not know what they were voting for and invalidated our law. Soon after, voters passed a new initiative which will no longer allow our state government to change or cancel a voter-approved initiative. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project has collected enough signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot in Arizona in 2010. We do expect it to pass, it polls very well. Several citizens are interested in legalizing marijuana, but it costs close to $2 million dollars to run a citizen’s initiative in Arizona. Hopefully with success in California in 2010, it would motivate others to try in Arizona in 2012.
Q: What would be the benefits of having marijuana legalized?
A: There are numerous benefits, from the out of control forfeiture laws that cause people to lose their homes and cars due to marijuana, due the destruction of families when a parent goes to jail or a child is taken away due to marijuana. We could see industrial hemp become a crop in Arizona- low water, no pesticide, no fertilizer; it is the perfect crop for Arizona. Arizona arrests thousands of people each year, in fact Tucson arrests close to 15 each day for marijuana possession. We could stop that madness and focus limited law enforcement resources on real crime.
Q: What would the drawbacks be if marijuana were legalized?
A: Marijuana, like all enjoyable substances, can be abused. By legalizing it, we could work to educate our youngsters about cannabis and how to avoid abusing it. Fortunately, marijuana cannot result in overdose and is one of the most nontoxic substances known.
Q: If marijuana were legalized, how would that affect your organization?
A: Our mission would be a success and we could continue to fight against injustice and fight for personal liberty.
Q: Is there ANYTHING readers can do to help your organization?
A: Please visit our website at http://www.az4norml.org and join our email list and check our donation page to help us achieve our goals!