Prop 205 Chair Says Governor Ducey's Drug-Abuse Bedroom Exhibit Is an Anti-Pot Campaign Hiding in Plain Sight

The mock teen bedroom of the "Hidden in Plain Sight" drug-prevention program at the State Capitol this week.EXPAND
The mock teen bedroom of the "Hidden in Plain Sight" drug-prevention program at the State Capitol this week.
Ray Stern

"Hidden in Plain Sight" is the title of a new substance-abuse-prevention effort by the office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey that purports to teach people how drug-using teens hide their stash.

The way the leader of the campaign to pass Proposition 205 sees it, the name could also describe what appears to be a stealth anti-legalization promotion whipped up by Ducey and Debbie Moak, director of the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith & Family.

J.P. Holyoak, chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, believes the new anti-drug efforts are designed to suppress votes for Prop 205, which would make up to an ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older.

"The war on drugs is mainly a war on marijuana," says Holyoak. "For Ducey and [Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery] to bring this out at this time — it's not suspicious. It is what it is."

State officials are legally forbidden from openly campaigning against the marijuana-legalization measure that voters will decide in two weeks. Using taxpayer money to make the most of Red Ribbon Week, a national event that encourages students to go drug-free, is fair game. 

Indeed, it's hard to separate the anti-drug push from the intense private campaigning and fundraising Ducey's been doing for Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which opposes Prop 205. Ducey has helped bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the group.

Moak, who made a fortune selling drug-testing kits with her husband, Steve, wrote forcefully against Prop 205 in the pro and con arguments the state compiled for voters.

On Monday, Ducey and Moak kicked off Red Ribbon Week with a special presentation on the Capitol lawn called "Addiction: The Elephant in the Room," which focused on how most drug addictions begin in the teen years. Moak then led the first tour group through a mock teen bedroom set up on the Capitol Museum's fourth floor.

On Tuesday, Montgomery — a staunch Ducey ally and one of the state's most ardent foes of medical and legal marijuana — hosted a bedroom tour.

Moak arrived a few minutes before the 1 p.m. tour began. New Times, which has a pending request for any communications from Moak that concern Prop 205, asked her whether the records, when Ducey's office releases them, will show she has improperly campaigned against Prop 205.

"I'm smarter than that," she replied. "Ask my staff: I would never use state time."

For political work, she uses private time, or vacation time if she's doing something during work hours, she said.

Tim Jeffries, director of the state Department of Economic Security, also led a group on Tuesday. Last month, Jeffries apparently ran afoul of state law by sending an anti-Prop 205 e-mail to the entire DES staff.

The room is open to the public every day this week from 11 a.m. to noon. Reserved slots are also available for guided tours with local Drug Enforcement Agency boss Douglas Coleman, state schools chief Diane Douglas, or Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan. Adding to the scaremongering overtones, no one under 21 is admitted.

Psychologist Ryan Drzewiecki (left) and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery warn about drug abuse and the lengths to which teens go in order to hide it.EXPAND
Psychologist Ryan Drzewiecki (left) and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery warn about drug abuse and the lengths to which teens go in order to hide it.
Ray Stern

The fictional teen's room is outfitted with a large "Beatles" throw pillow on the bed, a hat that reads "'Merica" sitting on a desk, and a pair of Converse sneakers (and dirty socks) on the floor. It's a suspiciously clean space for a teen, but just beneath the surface it's ridin' dirty. Stash containers abound: a can of hairspray with intravenous-drug-using equipment tucked inside, a highlighter pen that transforms into a pipe, a wall clock with several hidden compartments. A bottle of Voss water rests on a dresser — or is it a bottle of vodka?

The drug paraphernalia in the room is there to educate, but the sheer quantity evokes concern for the fictional teen: This kid has a serious problem.

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A few overt signs of cannabis culture are on display. Stickers on a bulletin board advertise "Toker Poker" and Bake Bros marijuana-smoking accessories.

The Bath and Copley Township Police Departments of Ohio claim they created they concept in 2011. A Google search reveals that "Hidden in Plain Sight" exhibits have been set up by police and substance-abuse professionals across the nation. The city of Santa Clarita, California, hosted a similar event a few months ago, calling it "Marijuana: Hidden in Plain Sight." A drug-prevention center in New Jersey advertises that one of the rooms can be set up for $600.

The Tuesday 1 p.m. tour group at the Capitol consisted of seven women, including a few state employees, and one New Times reporter. Montgomery began his presentation by explaining how parents are the first line of defense against drug use by their children.

While addiction is unlikely for people who are older than 18 when they first try drugs, he pointed out, most addicts start using in their teens.

"As a criminal-justice professional," the county attorney explained, "this room is a search-warrant-free zone as a parent. You do not have to see a judge first before you go in and start looking through a backpack, leafing through a notebook, and taking the time to understand what's going on in your teen's life today."

Montgomery said nothing about Proposition 205. Nor did Ryan Drzewiecki, a newly licensed psychologist who conducted most of the presentation. But marijuana was a focus.

Drzewiecki, who works for the nonprofit social-services agency A New Leaf, discussed a range of drugs and their effects and demonstrated how the stash containers worked. He showed how the "silent smoker," which looks like a tube of hair product, has replaced the old standby of a cardboard tube filled with dryer sheets, to cover up the telltale odor of marijuana. Frequent use of room deodorizer is another warning sign, he said. The doctor held up a bottle of Herbal Clean detox drink, saying it can be effective for passing a drug test.

He also covered dabbing, a method of smoking extracted marijuana resin, though he admitted he didn't know how it actually worked. Parents should watch out if their kids tell a friend, "Let's go dab": It might not mean the dance, he said, and could be "code" for cannabis consumption.

Drzewiecki drew a few laughs when he pulled out a plastic bag that contained a fistful of white powder and called it a "little baggie of cocaine."

"That would be a big party," one woman quipped.

"Yes, it would," he replied.

Dawn Scanlon, a member of Ducey's substance-abuse task force, said she was impressed by the presentation. Her son was 17 when he began abusing opiates following a surgery, and he often hid them in his room. He's 26 and doing fine now, Scanlon added.

"It's quite breathtaking to think you can get these things off Amazon," she said of the paraphernalia.

Fewer teens may have a need for such equipment in the future. The rate of drug and alcohol use by teens has been declining for years in Arizona. Since voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in 2010, overall teen use of marijuana went down slightly, according to the most recent youth surveys.

If voters approve Prop 205 on November 8, adults 21 and older won't need to hide their cannabis, either. And that's a huge concern for Ducey, Moak, and their allies.


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