Some Mesa voters gave mixed responses about voters' decision to approve recreational use and selling of marijuana in the passing of Proposition 207.
Those in approval of the prop argued smoking marijuana recreationally is a freedom issue that was long overdue while opposers air on the side of marijuana still being detrimental to society.
Andrew Marcantel, criminal defense attorney for Attorneys for Freedom. said “the moral implications of the drug war have worn out their welcome and I think the American people are moving more towards legalization all across the country because they’re concerned about freedom.”
Prop. 207, which passed with about 60% of the vote, legalizes people age 21 and older to have up to an ounce of marijuana as well as allowing a person to have up to six marijuana plants or 12 for a household.
Seeing a few states decriminalizing marijuana and leading the charge toward recreation, Mr. Marcantel said he believes “the stigma surrounding marijuana use has changed significantly in recent years.”
“Once people saw that the sky didn’t fall down and that marijuana wasn’t as harmful as it was cracked up to be, people are starting to realize that it doesn’t make any sense on a societal level to expend a bunch of resources to incarcerate people or criminalize peaceful behavior in this respect,” Mr. Marcantel said.
Prop 207 isn’t perfect and rarely is legislation ever perfect but it is definitely a step in the right direction for Arizona in promoting personal freedoms, Mr. Marcantel said.
“We're currently still on the wrong side of history with this prohibition [of marijuana in other states] but it's changing immensely, and there will be a time in our country's history in the not too distant future where we will look back and change and see that we incarcerated and prosecuted so many people and ruined so many lives over marijuana possession and sale and transportation,” Marcantel said.
While some saw the legalization of marijuana, both medically and recreationally, as a step in the right direction for personal freedom, others still see potentially dangerous to society and themselves.
“I think that people rely on the recreational use of marijuana unfortunately as a crutch that also leads to, aside from the harmful individual impacts and the risk of public safety, heavier drug usage," said resident Nick Carter.
Marijuana is viewed as a gateway drug to other substances by Mr. Carter but he still supports the medical use of marijuana as long as it is prescribed by a certified medical doctor with prescribed control.
“I think really what it comes down to is, at some point, what will get people's attention to be the driving force for change if it is not the law anymore,” Mr. Carter said.
Mr. Carter explained the campaigning of Prop. 207 to him was an “uphill battle” because of the timing and turnout of the election.
“I’m disappointed quite frankly that people didn’t see the way I did but I mean, they're entitled to their own opinions and their perceptions,” Mr. Carter said.
While some still perceive marijuana as a drug that is harmful to society, others have seen benefits to using the drug not only medically but recreationally.
Mesa Public Schools teacher Christina Bustos said she believes Prop. 207 is “a smart idea."
“How many people died of marijuana poisoning? You rarely ever hear of something like that," she said.
When Ms. Bustos was younger she saw how marijuana affected people around her and she was very against it for a long time until one personal experience shaped the way she feels about it now, 14 years later.
“I had a boyfriend that would drink and when he drank, he was a jerk, you know? But if he smoked which I didn't know he was doing but if he smoked weed he was much kinder and much nicer and much more open than just being completely intoxicated,” Ms. Bustos said. “And he was never allowed to do it around me but that is actually what changed my view.”
Ms. Bustos also showed her approval for the money tax revenue will raise from Prop. 207 that will go to funding community colleges, public safety, public health programs, and roads and highways.
“I think people are already doing it and it would be better to regulate it, ” Bustos said. “It would be potentially dangerous if it were something else but I’m for it.”
Still, using marijuana recreationally to others is seen as just not beneficial to society.
“I believe the research that correlates marijuana use to psychosis in later life,” MPS teacher Catherine Pettitt said. “I do think people use it as an experimental drug and try it once and have been caught, and should not receive life-altering penalties for that phenomenon.”
Ms. Pettitt views marijuana as a gateway drug and being a Seattle native, returning home she can never stand the “putrid smell” of marijuana.
“I do think it should be decriminalized in small amounts while remaining predominantly medical for people with terminal illnesses,” Pettitt said.
Pettitt said the campaign against Prop. 207 could have done better in educating the people how Prop 207 is taxed and “how there is connection and medical empirical correlation of psychosis rates.”
“I think there’s a national conversation that needs to happen around marijuana, its use, its effects and its tax-ability,”Ms. Pettitt said.
The discussion about whether marijuana is beneficial to society and should be legalized carries on across most of the country between those fighting to use marijuana recreationally and those who view it as a potential threat to society but now it is legal in Arizona.
Mr. Marcantel notes that Prop 207 technically won’t be the law till Nov. 30 until the government certifies it but it is soon going to be “massively decriminalized.”
“I think overall, anytime the bus is pushed in the right direction towards personal liberty and freedom, it's a good thing for our country. So I think overall, prop 207 is very positive for the state,” Marcantel said.
Sierra Alvarez is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.