Troutt: Recreational marijuana — a defining moment for Arizona

By Dr. William Troutt

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Arizona citizens voted in support of Prop 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, that has been termed “Recreational Marijuana.” When we think of the term recreation, synonyms like fun, enjoyment and pleasure come to mind.

However, Smart and Safe is much more profound, going beyond what the term recreational marijuana would suggest by focusing on the repair of community, political, social, and economic issues.

Smart and Safe expands the previously limited legal use of marijuana for severe and specific medical conditions to include all responsible adult use.

The intent was not just to restore civil rights and freedom of choice but more broadly to address major consequences of cannabis prohibition — prison overcrowding with nonviolent offenders, economic and social barriers stemming from a felony conviction, racial and economic disparities in the justice system, friction between our law enforcement and communities, disallowance of a safer alternative to alcohol and tobacco use, and lacking resources for treatment of substance abuse.

In this light, the phrase recreational marijuana use does not seem to do justice to this landmark moment in history and our aspirations. However, when you look deeper at the origins and uses of the word “recreation,” it starts to feel quite appropriate.

The term recreation has its foundation in health and healing. Its uses have included restoration, curing of a person, to make a new, recovery from illness, to invigorate and to refresh.

And now with Smart and Safe, industry and activists have found common ground in cannabis to address deep divisions and imbalances between our government, laws, communities and people, with the promise of re-creation to restore unity, heal inequalities, invigorate economics and revitalize faith in democracy.

I have been on the front line of this reconciliation in Arizona, first with the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and now with the 2020 Smart and Safe Arizona Act. As with many others, my family, and my life, have been deeply impacted by the war on drugs. Now, I am seeing a path to recovery. It is being built through cooperation, understanding, tolerance, unity, medicine and recreation.

I joined a startup company in 2012, Harvest Health & Recreation. They asked me to share my knowledge of cannabis culture and botanical medicine and to serve as an advocate for patients, caregivers, and the communities we serve.

As Harvest’s Medical Director for the past eight years, I have collaborated with industry leaders, government representatives, business stakeholders and medical organizations to advance cannabis programs and assist patients and our communities in their quest for safe, informed cannabis access. Personally, I have witnessed medical success stories, courage and unity, which have rejuvenated my hope and optimism for the future.

For thousands of years, cannabis has been used for food, fuel, fiber, medicine, spirituality/religion, health and leisure. And now in Arizona we can appropriately call its use recreation.

I, for one, believe that this expanded access to legal cannabis for responsible adult “recreational” use — by any definition — is healthy for our communities.

Dr. William Troutt is director of medical education at Harvest Health & Recreation.

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