Merilee Fowler and MATFORCE are Anti-Marijuana Propaganda Tools

The marijuana legalization movement has several foes in Arizona, and Merilee Fowler, executive director of MATFORCE in Yavapai County, is one of the biggies.

Both sides are getting an early start on the campaign to pass or defeat a likely ballot initiative planned to be put before Arizona voters in November of 2016. Judging by the propaganda that Fowler and other prohibitionists like Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk are already pumping out, truth is the first casualty in what looks to be long slog ahead.

Witness the Communist-like propaganda penned by Fowler appearing in various Arizona news outlets today, including the Arizona Capitol Times.

See also: -Arizona Marijuana-Legalization Campaign for 2016 Ballot Measure Becomes Official -Kimberly Yee and Sheila Polk Use Power to Prop Up Marijuana Prohibition

Fowler's short opinion column starts out by setting the stage for the extreme hypocrisy to come: "My sincere hope is that on the topic of legalized marijuana, citizens of Arizona will examine who truly is utilizing 'statistical manipulations and half-truths' and that they review the validity and sources of all information that is presented."

Fowler than proceeds to defend her side by citing numerous statistical manipulations and half-truths. Here are several examples:

* "One study that Dr. Dewey discussed confirmed that long-term, consistent marijuana use decreases the user's IQ." -- "Confirmed" is a half-truth. Google "marijuana and IQ" and you'll find numerous conflicting reports about what the drug does to IQ.

For instance, one government study that found heavy users may risk a decreased IQ also showed that: "The comparison of the IQ difference scores showed an average decrease of 4.1 points in current heavy users (p < 0.05) compared to gains in IQ points for light current users (5.8), former users (3.5) and non-users (2.6)."

That's right, the study showed "light" marijuana users displayed higher IQ than non-users. You'll never see that stat in MATFORCE propaganda, we'd wager. Plus, heavy alcohol use over the years degrades the brain so much, it's not even in the same ballpark as marijuana.

* Fowler tries to make hay with the idea that "overall crime" in Denver has increased since legalization, but ignores the fact that violent crimes decreased dramatically. This one's inherently a half-truth: Those stats were for the first six months of 2014. Soon we'll find out how the whole year shook out. (We'll admit it's also a half-truth and possibly a flat-out lie to say overall crime in Denver has decreased in 2014. Fact is, it's too early to say for sure what legalization has done to Colorado's crime rate.)

* Similarly, Fowler also mentions that more drivers have tested positive for marijuana since legalization. While it may be true, no information has been released by Colorado on how many injury or fatal crashes are actually caused by people high on marijuana.

Colorado Department of Transportation officials admitted to New Times that while more dead drivers in Colorado are testing positive for marijuana, they could all be victims of drunk drivers. Our research shows that in Arizona, marijuana-only drivers account for less than 1 percent of injury or fatal crashes, which is lower than the percentage of suspected impaired drivers who test positive for no drugs or alcohol.

* Fowler claims that pro-legalizers commonly say, "Legal marijuana will stop the drug cartels." We've never heard anyone make that claim -- everyone knows that the cartels will still sell cocaine, meth and other things if and when marijuana becomes legal nationwide. But legal marijuana may already be making significant cuts into the marijuana sales of cartels. To give a specific example, about 2.5 tons of marijuana were sold to medical-marijuana patients in Arizona last year, when dispensaries were just getting started. Fowler should explain why it would have been better to have that 2.5 tons of marijuana sold by Mexican drug cartels instead of by law-abiding Arizona citizens.

* Fowler claims legalization supporters argue that prisons are full of marijuana offenders. "Less than 1.4 percent" of the prison population were convicted of marijuana-only offenses, she says.

First of all, saying that only 20,000 people marijuana-only offenses are serving prison time, so let's not legalize marijuana, is no argument at all. It's political insanity. It's like saying if 20,000 people in prison were innocent, gee, that's not so many, so why not keep them there? Fowler should focus on why she thinks it's a good thing that 20,000 people are in prison for pot offenses, and if she can't come up with any such positives, she should change her tune.

Secondly, Fowler claims here that, "Arizona state law does not allow a prison sentence for marijuana possession until the third offense." Does Fowler's buddy, Sheila Polk, agree with this one? Because the Maricopa County Attorney's Office tells us that state law does, in fact, allow people to be sentenced to jail on a marijuana conviction if they refused the terms of probation. We're following a case now in which an 18-year-old medical-marijuana patient and college student is being prosecuted for felony marijuana possession of .3 grams of marijuana, and we understand that he faces potential prison time, even though it's his first offense.

Finally, Fowler's debate point that few pot defendants get sentenced to prison ignores the fact, conveniently, that most people arrested for simple marijuana possession in Arizona are booked into jail. In the Maricopa County Jail, offenders are often strip-searched, rectally searched and made to wear pink underwear -- we encourage Fowler, Polk, and all of MATFORCE to submit themselves to that process, if they want to continue to argue that being busted for marijuana is no big deal.

As usual, these sorts of propaganda columns contain more BS than we have time to address -- and we have to save some energy for the avalanche of half-truths and outright lies by the marijuana prohibitionists that will be spewing in the next couple of years.

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Ray Stern on Twitter at @RayStern.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.