I’m a radio host and also privileged to chair an organization dedicated to prevention. In my individual capacity, I was asked to address the connection between prevention and recovery and a very serious ballot measure facing all of us this November — a measure that, if passed, will radically change both prevention and recovery efforts in Arizona.
The Miracle of RecoveryWhenever I meet someone in recovery, I am always reminded of how much of a miracle that person is. Those that don’t know about this magical thing called recovery just don’t get it. People in recovery quietly and nobly fight—daily. And the fight is against physiological inclinations, nature, and the environment we all live in. I’ve heard it put this way: Shopaholics shop. Chocoholics eat chocolate. Workaholics work. Alcoholics drink. Substance abusers use substances—that’s how they often get to, or change, their “normal.”
So, as I’ve learned it and seen it with family and friends: Every day of sobriety for someone in recovery, every week, every month, every year is a successful fight against physiology, inclination, and nature. It’s a miracle. It really is. And it’s a hell of an achievement.
And it’s also so, so rare. In an ironic sense, we all want to see more people in recovery who don’t get it, who don’t have it—addicts in the grips or throes of their addictions. Yet on the other hand, we also wish there were not so many—or any—with these problems. But there are, and those in recovery always have their hands and arms open to others. There are no greater helpers among us than those in recovery. And I’m going to ask for your help in a moment.
The Side of PreventionBut first, I want to explain why I work the other side of the street: prevention. I work in the prevention field precisely because I know how hard recovery is. I know how rare a miracle is. I know that for each and every person in sobriety who gets it, who keeps it, there are millions who will never find it, or, if they do, simply will not be able to join you and hold on to it. You are the minority of the minority. You are the miracles.
So I push prevention—better not to start, better not to initiate, better not to play Russian roulette because who knows which chamber will have the fatal bullet. So while those in recovery open their hands and arms and hearts, we in prevention do our best to limit how many will ever need it.
We Have a Choice in NovemberThis is why I have been such a strong advocate against a choice before all of us this November, a choice that will make all of our work harder if we get it wrong. We actually have a real choice, in the form of a ballot vote, on whether we want to create more addicts or not, more drug problems or not, more alcohol problems or not. We will not have a choice on whether we can give more people more recovery, but we do have the choice about whether we can make the problems we all know worse.
Irony. It’s an important word in our movement. I was thinking about a book on it, by the philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr. The book is the Irony of American History. If Niebuhr’s name is at all familiar, perhaps it is because he wrote the Serenity Prayer. I love that prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Lately I’ve been focused on the second part: Courage. The courage to change the things we can. One thing that is of no irony to me is that Aristotle taught that courage is the most important of virtues, because without it nothing else is possible. My plea here to you is to embrace the courage to help our community—and in this case, to help our community not make things worse.
Prop 205So, for those that want less addiction temptations and opportunities for our families, our friends, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors, think about what is before us this November. There will be a ballot initiative known as Proposition 205. It will make marijuana legal for recreational purposes. But I want you each to actually read the initiative—it is 20 pages long. Once you read it, you will see it does far more than just make marijuana legal. And as too many know, this is not the marijuana of yesterday, we are talking about high potency THC marijuana and child-attractive edibles like gummy bears, lollipops, and candy bars. Proposition 205 will, among other things:
Allow households to grow indoors and out, 6 to 12 marijuana plants that can yield pounds of marijuana.
It will ban every city or HOA from preventing that home growth.
- It defines a place of residence for such growth so that you could have entire apartment buildings or condominium buildings or frat houses with each unit number being a high-yield marijuana grow house. Or you could be the one unit that is not, as you are surrounded by it.
- It will set up marijuana stores and facilities throughout the state—all selling high potency THC edibles and smoked marijuana.
- It will allow for marijuana delivery, just like pizza. It will allow advertisements in newspapers, on billboards, and sign spinners promoting commercialized marijuana on our streets.
- While Proposition 205 states marijuana stores have to be 500 feet from a school, it allows them to be built or operate with no distance limits from a church or synagogue, a rehab facility, a half-way house, or a homeless shelter—you very easily could have one of these right next to where your 12- step meetings take place; right next to the most vulnerable of populations, at an after school club or rehab or homeless shelter. When we think of the way those who seek addicts to make profits off their intoxicants, we simply cannot assume this is an accident or oversight.
- Proposition 205 will change family law. Judges will no longer be able to use marijuana consumption or growth as a determinant in awarding custody or parenting time. Why does this bother me so much? How many of you have seen or worked to keep your children away from those who use substances and do not get recovery? We all know one big thing in prevention, too: Children get a lot of their substances from their homes, be it a parent’s medicine or liquor cabinet. Now they will be able to get them from their parent’s gardens and kitchens.
Lollipops, Gummy Bears, Cookies and Candies and. . . .And please understand, the marketing of edibles is highly child-attractive. Marijuana gummy bears, lollipops, candies. All will be legal. Now look to Colorado—since legalization, youth use of marijuana has increased to 74% higher than the national average. And accidental youth ingestions have risen 150%.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about those numbers: Colorado’s legislature just banned certain forms of those child-attractive candies. Arizona is unique in that it has a Voter Protection Act, barring our legislature from making that kind of adjustment or change. What we decide at the ballot box with propositions in Arizona is essentially permanent. Do not think that is an accident either.
To repeat: When an initiative is passed here, the Governor cannot veto it and the legislature cannot amend it against the purpose of the language. In other words, if this thing passes, we will have radically changed 80 years of good, hard, substance abuse prevention work overnight—with consequences that will be permanent.
Now consider: almost every person with a use disorder, started using in their teens. And in Colorado, the plurality of youth who use marijuana will tell you they got it from a friend who obtained it legally. 25% got it from their parents’ homes.
All of this is one grand recipe for a lot more substance abuse. We know this, don’t we? You make an attractive and intoxicating and addictive substance more available, it will be used more. Now make it child friendly. We’ve seen this with alcohol, we’ve seen this with tobacco, and Colorado and Washington State are seeing it with marijuana. And if alcohol is your most important concern, just think about the new studies showing marijuana users are five times more likely to have alcohol problems. We are talking about multi-substance abuse problems with this one initiative.
We don’t need this in our state, and we cannot afford it. I love hanging out with people who get recovery. In this movement, I have found the actual proof of the theoretical notion that it is the weak who are cruel and that gentleness can only be expected from the strong. I ask you to summon your strength, to summon the courage to change the things you can, and help in stopping this public health disaster in the making, a disaster that comes in the form of a ballot, a disaster that will be nearly impossible to reverse.
It would seem the ultimate irony to me that as we all celebrate and work for more recovery we would—at the same time—make more available an increasingly potent, child-attractive, and addictive drug. We’ve come too far, all of us, for that.
As the Greek poets put it:
Let’s do our best to help make gentle the life of this world—that can only come from the strong.
Right now, it must come from you, your experience, your strength, and all of our hope. I thank you for your help.
Seth Leibsohn is the host of the Seth Leibsohn Show, heard nightly on KKNT/960am, and the
Chairman of NotMYKid.