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Safer Arizona files marijuana legalization initiative for 2018

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The next underdog marijuana legalization initiative is out of the gate as the group Safer Arizona filed their vision of recreational marijuana on Feb. 16.

Similar to Prop 205, the Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Act would legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and that's where the similarities end.

The act would remove any criminal penalty for the possession of marijuana, with no limit on possession amounts, and retroactively resentence those convicted and in jail for marijuana crimes right now.

The act also restricts any taxation beyond sales tax, revenue from which would benefit K-12 schools, limits local municipalities' control over marijuana, allows 48 plants for cultivation at home and lets any licensed retailer sell marijuana.

Finally, it would have marijuana regulated under the Department of Agriculture as opposed to Prop 205's marijuana commission, resulting the plant being treated more like—well, a plant—than a drug or other controlled substance.

Already we can see why Safer Arizona may have a tough road to the ballot. Much of Prop 205's eligibility can be granted to the appeasements it made to detractors of pot prohibition repeal.

Many of Prop 205's provisions were clear attempts to gain wide support outside of the clearly pro-legalization crowd.

We could see this with the proposed Department of Marijuana and the Marijuana commission, the wide berth of control given to municipalities and restrictions on who could enter the market when.

However, the plan backfired, as these were the exact components that many pro-legalization voters ended up saying "no" to.

But it's not just Safer Arizona's laundry list of ideal implementation that may be a source of trouble for the initiative. Prop 205's coincidence with a presidential election year was no mistake.

For big-ticket ballot measures, backers usually plan for a year when they know voter turnout will be at its peak, which typically occurs every four years with the election of our president.

Safer Arizona has decided to file in an off year, meaning they'll have to be much more considerate of the expenditure of their resources if they're going to make an impact.

Last year, the Prop 205 campaign spent just above $6.5 million on the campaign, and they needed it too. The campaign against Prop 205 accumulated just under $6.4 million, and anti-legalization propaganda filled the airwaves and our newsfeed.

Against those types of resources, Safer Arizona isn't the giant in this David and Goliath tale. It remains unseen what sort of resources the group can muster, but $6.5 million in an off-election year is challenging if not entirely unlikely.

Still, marijuana proponents have little to worry about with the passage of this initiative. It'd be the most extensive deregulation of marijuana compared to any other legalization law in the country. Arizona would become the land where weed flows like wine.

The group is well poised to achieve their first task: collecting 150,642 ballot signatures by July 5, 2018. With a year and a half to go, the goal certainly seems attainable, but Safer Arizona is far from the finish line.

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