KUSA—Two Colorado lawmakers star in an Arizona television ad urging people to vote against legalizing recreational marijuana.
“Don’t repeat our terrible mistake,” former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb says.
Webb, a prominent Democrat, and former Colorado Republican Gov. Bill Owens use the 30-second spot to slam Colorado for allegedly marketing edibles to kids, having the highest teen use of marijuana in the country and not giving money to Denver schools.
Neither Owens or Webb responded to a request for comment.
Mason Tvert says the former politicians are trying to re-write history.
Tvert worked on Amendment 64, which legalized recreational pot in Colorado, and he’s helping the supporters of Arizona’s Proposition 205.
“These are former Colorado leaders trying to make their own state look bad as a favor to politicians in other states,” Tvert said. “It’s particularly sleazy that they’re doing it in such a disingenuous fashion.”
Proposition 205 would legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona for people 21 years or older. And it would create a new state department to oversee growing, buying and selling pot.
The campaign’s opponents use an annual report called the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area for its facts.
Critics of that report say it cherry picks statistics to paint a grim picture of Colorado since legalization.
For example, Owens tells Arizonans the report shows marijuana related traffic deaths increased 62 percent since legalization.
That’s technically true, but a marijuana related traffic death doesn’t mean the person died because he or she was high.
Law enforcement classifies a traffic death as marijuana related if the deceased tests positive for THC.
If someone smoked a joint Monday and died in a car crash Thursday, they could be classified as a marijuana related traffic death even though the joint wasn’t a contributing factor to the accident.
Also, Colorado police agencies have stepped up their efforts to identify marijuana impaired drivers since the legal sale of pot started in the state in 2014.
In spite of that, the number of marijuana-related DUI citations actually dropped from 2014 to 2015, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
Mayor Webb gives Arizona viewers another scary statistic: 50 percent of newborns tested at a Colorado hospital had THC in their system.
The key word in that sentence is tested because not every newborn is screened for drugs.
Although the recent rise in opioid addiction has led some hospitals to adopt universal screening policies for newborns, most medical centers decide who to test on a case-by-case basis.
St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, the hospital behind that number, had 52 babies born in March 2016. Hospital staff tested 11 of those newborns for THC and five were positive.
That’s 45 percent of babies tested, but it’s 9.6 percent of the babies born that month.
Webb also says Denver schools didn’t see any money from marijuana taxes.
That’s true, but it’s because the district opted not to apply for any of the money raised by the 15 percent excise tax.
Smaller districts like the Roaring Fork School District have used marijuana dollars to retrofit aging buildings.
Webb and Owens aren’t the only Colorado politicians voicing their opinions in Arizona.
Former Colorado Attorney General and current Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers traveled to Phoenix in September to share the “dire consequences” of legalizing marijuana.
“People in law enforcement, people running a city, things like that, they’re going to see the neighborhood problems, they’re going to see the increase in DUIs, they’re going to see the school problems and things like that,” Suthers said during a press conference in Phoenix. “A lot of the average citizens are not going to see all that.”
There are significant differences between Colorado’s law and the one proposed in Arizona.
The Arizona law doesn’t allow cities to opt out of having dispensaries, and it doesn’t have a threshold for driving under the influence.
Suthers suggested Arizonans wait until Colorado’s law has been in effect for five years before deciding if it was a good idea.
“Colorado voters rejected their misleading claims about Amendment 64 in 2012,” Tvert said. “And Arizona voters aren’t going to fall for it either.”