Medical Marijuana: Growing Support

A new poll shows Prop 207, which would legalize recreational weed, is likely to pass

Support for legalizing marijuana is getting higher as the election approaches, according to a recent poll, and if the trend continues it looks like Arizona might become the 12th state to legalize recreational weed for adults.

A Monmouth University poll released on Oct. 15 shows support for Prop 207, Smart and Safe Arizona, increasing just weeks before the election.

Monmouth reported that 56 percent of registered voters in Arizona support the passage of Smart and Safe and 36 percent were against. A similar poll in September weighed in at 51 percent for and 41 percent against.

In a high turnout election, which this is expected to be, 56 percent of likely voters said they are in favor of the measure, while 37 percent would reject it. On the other hand, a low turnout election tightens those results to 54 percent to 39 percent respectively, so the measure holds a hefty lead in either scenario. That comes on the heels of an August Monmouth poll that reported a dead heat in a low turnout of 47-47 percent.

Proposition 205, the Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana Act, lost in 2016 by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.

The political breakdown of the October numbers shows support by 69 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents and only 38 percent of Republicans, although Republican support is up from September when it was 32 percent.

A September poll by Strategies 360, the advocacy group working to get Smart and Safe passed, closely reflected the Monmouth poll, with 57 percent for and 38 percent against the proposition.

Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, a political action committee dedicated to defeating 207, latched on to a September Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights poll reporting a 1 percent margin at 46 in favor and 45 percent opposed.

"These poll results and extensive leadership opposition indicate Arizona voters can see past the fancy title and slick marketing to the consequences of such a lengthy and self-serving initiative written by marijuana stakeholders,"AHPS Chair Lisa James said in a September press release announcing then-tightening polling results. But since September, the gap has been growing.

Recent campaign finance reports indicate Smart and Safe far out-raising and outspending its opponents by a substantial margin.

As of Sept. 30, Smart and Safe had $16,731.48 in cash on hand, with $1,466,124.50 raised in the third quarter of 2020. The PAC spent $414,041.82 over the same period. More than half the money raised, $284,856.66, was spent on operating expenses.

Overall, Smart and Safe has raised $5,037,063.85, with nearly $1.5 million coming from Harvest Enterprises, Inc., owned by Tempe native and Arizona State University graduate Steve White.

Most of the other big donors are dispensary owners or organizations associated with the industry, leading to the perception that "Big Marijuana" is ramming 207 through for the benefit of existing dispensary owners.

"When they talk about 'Big Marijuana,' they mean Harvest," Strategies 360's Stacy Pearson told the Weekly in August. "For pro-business conservatives to paint Harvest as anything but an Arizona success story?...That's typically what they applaud."

Strategies 360 is a political firm working to pass 207 that has received $628,671.65 from Smart and Safe.

Arizonans for Health and Public Safety raised $297,870 in the third quarter of 2020 with an ending balance of $124,626. The PAC spent $194,773.17 over that period.

Overall, AHPS has raised $485,845 and has spent $315,308.06.

Arizonans for Heath and Public Safety is largely funded by Center for Arizona Policy Action, a conservative Christian PAC, "whose mission is to promote and defend the foundational values of life, marriage and family, and religious freedom."