Well, it’s official, guys: Arizona could well be on its way to legalize recreational marijuana this year.
Today, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 250,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. The measure only needs 150,642 valid signatures to make the general election ballot, so the fate of legalization could be up to voters in November. We’ll probably hear whether CRMLA qualified around in August, according to a press release from the campaign.
“We are very encouraged by the strong levels of support and enthusiasm we found among voters during the petition drive,” says a media statement from CRMLA Chairman J.P. Holyoak. “Arizonans are ready to end the antiquated policy of marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. We look forward to continuing the public conversation about the initiative and we think most will agree it is a sensible step forward for our state.”
The initiative allows adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. You would be able to smoke weed at home and purchase it from a licensed retailer. You could also grow up to six plants in an enclosed, locked space. No more than 12 weed plants would be allowed to grow in the same household.
Cities and counties would be authorized to impose limits on where and when marijuana businesses are allowed to operate. They could also prohibit home growing if it is considered a nuisance or dangerous, or enact zoning regulations for marijuana establishments.
Retail marijuana sales would be taxed at 15 percent and the revenue would be used in the implementation and enforcement of recreational weed regulation. Additional funds would be allocated mostly to education—40 percent to school maintenance and operation costs; 40 percent for full-day kindergarten programs— and 20 percent to the Arizona Department of Health Services for substance abuse awareness.
When it comes to penalties, possessing more than one ounce of weed or cultivation of more than six plants per person would be a felony. It would be illegal to sell any marijuana without a business license. Driving while high would also still be a crime, but the initiative says a person shouldn’t be punished merely over the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana.
Once established, the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control would oversee the licensing system—accept, deny and/or renew license applications—and enforce the rules stipulated in the initiative. The governor would appoint the director and seven commission members—four of whom couldn't directly or indirectly have financial interests in the marijuana industry. The medical marijuana program will eventually be transferred from AZDHS to the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control.
The anti-legalization group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy says it is still committed to stopping the initiative. Since the beginning of ARDP’s campaign, the group has argued legalization will trigger increased marijuana use among teenagers, higher high school drop-out rates, more traffic accidents and substance abuse.
Chairman of ARDP Seth Leibsohn says in a press release that the proposition won’t accomplish anything supporters are being promised, while Vice-Chair and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk says the measure will only create a monopoly for the medical marijuana industry, “making them wealthy while the rest of us pay the price.”
“It does not permit limited amounts…It will not eliminate the black market, just as it has not in Colorado or Washington,” Leibsohn says in a media statement. “This proposition upends decades and decades of good and hard prevention work while at the same time negatively affecting everything from our health, education, welfare, and law enforcement systems.”
Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer, Lea Marquez-Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery have also advocated against legalization.
In a prepared statement, Marquez-Peterson warns the business community, as she argues legalizing weed “diminishes employers’ rights to regulate their workplace and provide a safe environment for their employees.” But, the CRMLA initiative, which is backed by the Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, allows employers to establish their own rules regarding employees consuming weed off the job. Also, the measure says you couldn't show up to work high.
“As a state, we should be focusing on bringing high paying jobs and new business to Tucson—and to the state. We should not be fighting to add another addictive substance and government entity to our community,” Marquez-Peterson adds.
In mid-June, another group seeking to legalize weed, Arizonans for Mindful Regulation, suspended its campaign until 2018. Their new focus is to boycott the CRMLA initiative because they believe it is restrictive and continues to fuel weed criminalization. With pretty much no money and entirely volunteer-run, AZFMR managed to collect about 100,000 signatures by April.
“Starting on Oct. 1, we'll begin finalizing the official language of our new AZFMR 2018 Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Just like last time, we'll be working hand-in-hand with anyone and everyone who will talk to us to ensure that our new AZFMR 2018 Initiative is AWESOME!” Jason Medar, founder of AZFMR, said on Facebook back in June.
The Weekly reached out to AZFMR for an interview, but the group says they are not ready to give any official statements about their “Vote NO on MPP’s harmful marijuana initiative” efforts.
In April, Medar told the Weekly he believed the CRMLA folks were a “bunch of greedy savages who only care about the money and don’t give a shit about [medical marijuana] patients and consumers.”