Arizona Governor Speaks Out Against Legalizing Marijuana During The Opioid Crisis

By McCarton Ackerman 09/08/16

Gov. Doug Ducey has passed laws to address Arizona's opioid epidemic, but he doesn't think "any state became stronger by being stoned."

Arizona Governor Speaks Out Against Legalizing Marijuana During The Opioid Crisis
Photo YouTube

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has gone on the record saying that he does not support legal marijuana for recreational use, stating that legalizing another substance shouldn’t be a priority while Arizona is grappling with an opioid epidemic. 

Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2011. According to, about 100,000 people in the state are medical marijuana card holders, meaning they're allowed to purchase up to two-and-a-half ounces of the drug every other week from state-regulated dispensaries. 

This November, Arizonans will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use by voting on Proposition 205. The proposed measure would allow any adult to have up to one ounce of marijuana and use it in non-public settings for any reason, and would establish a regulatory and taxing system.

Ducey has signed several laws into effect that attempt to address Arizona’s opioid epidemic, including expanding access to naloxone and requiring physicians to check the state database before prescribing opioids in order to ensure that patients aren’t "doctor shopping." But last Friday, the governor flatly declared that he doesn’t think “any state became stronger by being stoned” when it comes to legal marijuana.

“If we want to expand this universe of people that are addicted and abusing drugs, well you’ll have that chance in November,” said Ducey. “I, for one, the person who has to deal with the 19,000 children that are in our foster care system that has 85% of their parents that are abusing or are addicted to drugs, do not think we should expand that universe or that it would be a good idea in any way.”

But several recently published studies have suggested that medical marijuana access can actually reduce opioid use. A study published in March in the Journal of Pain found that chronic pain patients who used cannabis in a medical marijuana state both significantly reduced their opioid use and improved their quality of life. 

Vermont took a groundbreaking step this June by including chronic pain as one of the qualifying conditions to receive access to medical marijuana. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepped in in March by instructing doctors to stop testing chronic pain patients for marijuana use, saying that positive tests for THC could have harmful legal implications for patients and still not provide helpful information for doctors in addressing chronic pain.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.