Many people in Arizona have already begun a campaign to legalize marijuana. Proponents are working hard to collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot in 2016.
There’s just one issue.
Matforce, a substance abuse coalition, has put up billboards warning that using marijuana could be dangerous. One billboard near the highway I-17 claims, “Regular long-term marijuana use, lowers IQ, marijuana harmless? Think again.”
Another says “Would your child know if this cookie has pot in it?”
Some believe that the billboards are an effort to oppose the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, but Matforce claims they’re not against it. The group insists they’re only focused on youth substance abuse.
Whatever their intention, the billboards are definitely going to influence the public. According to PsyBlog, the human brain analyzes and stores visual information many times faster than anything else. As Pyschotactics points out, we retain only 10% of what we read but up to 30% of what we see. In other words, people who see the anti-marijuana billboards are likely to remember the message.
“We’re actually a Yavapai Co. substance abuse coalition, there was funding available through the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and we put in to do a statewide campaign,” said Merilee Fowler, the executive director of Matforce, which has focused on marijuana and youth since 2012. “What we’re looking at is to help youth realize the risks of marijuana.”
However, a study published in Scientific Reports found that the dangers of marijuana “may have been overestimated in the past,” while the risk of alcohol has been “commonly underestimated.”
Researchers compared the fatal risk posed by the typical recreational use of 10 drugs: marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, diazepam, amphetamine and methadone. Marijuana was far and away the safest, even compared to alcohol and cigarettes.
As Dave Wisniewski, Chairman and Director of Public Relations of marijuana advocacy group Safer Arizona, told KSAZ, “They’re trying to justify maintaining prohibition because of negligent parenting and we’re saying negligent parenting does not justify prohibition.”