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Experts argue pros, cons of recreational marijuana in Arizona

ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy hosts discussion on ballot measure; talks open to public

Ballot initiative

ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy conducted its first Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR) two years ago. The 2016 CIR exercise, to be held Aug. 11-14 in downtown Phoenix, will focus on the ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana.

August 10, 2016

Opposing campaigns in the Arizona ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana will be featured as presenters along with neutral experts at the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) voter-education exercise this week.

“We are pleased our citizen participants studying the proposed Regulation and Taxation Marijuana Act will hear from both sides, as well as from top experts from both Arizona and out of state, in coming up with the pros and cons of this important ballot measure,” said Thom Reilly, director of Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University.

Morrison Institute is conducting the CIR, which is funded by the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The CIR event, which is open for public viewing, will be Aug. 11-14 at the A.E. England Building, 424 N. Central Ave., in downtown Phoenix.

CIR is somewhat similar to a deliberation process by a jury — but without the verdict. A representative sample of Arizona’s electorate thoroughly examines the complexities, nuances and potential impact of a ballot proposition. At the end of the four-day exercise, CIR participants provide their fellow voters with a Citizens’ Statement, which details both the pros and cons of the initiative in everyday language. However, there is no recommendation for which way Arizonans should vote.

The CIR includes presentations by independent experts and advocates for both sides of the initiative.

Independent experts:

• Will Humble, board member, Arizona Public Health Association
• Gregory Midgette, associate policy researcher, RAND Corporation
• Doug Campos-Outcalt, medical director at Mercy Care Plan, part-time faculty member at MEZCOPH, Phoenix
• Erik Luna, foundation professor of law, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, ASU
• Ashley Kilroy, executive director of marijuana policy, city and county of Denver
• Brad Rowe, president and managing director, BOTEC Analysis Corp., Los Angeles

Advocates from YES campaign:

• JP Holyoak, chairman, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
• Ryan Hurley, attorney, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

Advocates from the NO campaign:

• Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk
• Dr. Ed Gogek, psychiatrist

The schedule for presenters is as follows:

• Aug. 11, 3-4 p.m., Initial Advocate Presentations
• Aug. 12, 12:15-1:15 p.m., Advocate Q&A Panel
• Aug. 12, 2-4 p.m., Independent Expert Panel Sessions
• Aug. 13, 1-2 p.m., Final Advocate Presentations

The public is invited to watch any or all presentations or CIR exercise, but as observers only. Questions and interaction are reserved for CIR participants as they seek information for their Citizens’ Statement, which will provide fellow voters with unbiased, unfiltered and understandable factual and credible information.

The CIR Advisory Board selected the proposition as the topic of study for the CIR, which for the first time will be held on a statewide level in Arizona.

“The CIR Advisory Board saw the marijuana issue as the proposition with the greatest potential impact on the state in a wide range of areas including the economy, criminal justice system, taxes, community health and social values,” Reilly said. “It’s a complex issues with many dynamics that voters may need assistance in fully understanding.”

The 20 to 24 participants selected for the 2016 CIR exercise were chosen according to the state’s demographics — including political party, ethnicity, age, gender, education and region. The selection process ensures a representative sample of the state’s electorate and population. CIR participants will be given a stipend and lodging, if necessary, for the CIR exercise. Session moderators will help move the CIR process forward but will not influence individual or group discussions or their outcomes.

“We’re trying to cut through the noise so voters can hear from fellow voters the most important and reliable information about a complex issue such as the proposed legalization of marijuana,” said Andrea Whitsett, associate director of Morrison Institute and CIR project manager.

A Morrison Institute poll conducted just before the 2012 election identified a dire need for increased voter awareness concerning ballot measures, noted David Daugherty, senior research fellow at Morrison Institute and a longtime data and survey researcher who will serve as one of the CIR moderators.

Nearly three-quarters of Arizona voters polled said they found ballot measures too complicated and confusing to fully comprehend. As a result, 60 percent use their limited knowledge to struggle through the propositions, while more than 20 percent don’t vote one way or the other. Some respondents (5.5 percent) said they just vote “no” on all ballot propositions because they feel they do not have enough information about the initiatives to understand.

The Citizens’ Statement will list both pros and cons for the initiative, but will not make any recommendation or endorsement in favor or opposition of the ballot measure itself.

“This format of not telling people how to vote mirrors Morrison Institute’s longstanding practice of empowering the public with the pros and cons of initiatives and trusting they’ll make their own informed decisions based on the propositions’ individual merits,” Reilly said. “Voters are looking for credible information, not somebody else telling them how to vote.”

Similarly “Understanding Arizona’s Propositions,” a nonpartisan and neutral examination of the pros and cons of ballot initiatives, is a popular feature posted at during election years with statewide initiatives. The briefings, which will be done for all three 2016 ballot initiatives, are touted by voters and voter advocates for their concise explanations, as well as their nonbiased presentation and neutral position.

 The 2016 Arizona CIR Advisory Board, a volunteer group of community leaders from around the state, consists of:

• Amanda Aguirre, president and CEO, Regional Center for Border Health
• Thomas Collins, executive director, Arizona Clean Elections Commission
• Laura Dooley, professor of law, Valparaiso University
• Rivko Knox, League of Women Voters of Arizona
• Bruce Meyerson, National Institute for Civil Discourse Advisory Board Member
• Lee Miller, Deputy Secretary of State
• Alberto Olivas, executive director, Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service, Arizona State University
• Lori Poloni-Staudinger, chair and associate professor, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Northern Arizona University
• Amit Ron, associate professor, ASU School of Social and Behavior Sciences
• Daniel Schugurensky, ASU professor, Schools of Public Affairs and Social Transformation

The CIR model itself was developed by Healthy Democracy, an Oregon-based nonpartisan nonprofit involved in CIR exercises in Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts and Arizona. Healthy Democracy again is providing advisory and support staff for the Arizona CIR exercise on a contract basis. The Arizona CIR, however, will be overseen, facilitated and conducted by Morrison Institute, which held its first CIR in September 2014 regarding the Phoenix city government pension reform proposition.

The CIR model was awarded both the International Association for Public Participation’s Award for North American Project of the Year and the Project of the Year internationally in 2013. It was named by Harvard University as one of the Top 10 programs for the Roy and Lila Ash Innovations in Public Engagement in Government Award in 2015.

Established in 1982, Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource and part of the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state and region’s quality of life.

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