MMJ: Marijuana in Motion

Two big events stand to reshape Arizona cannabis in the near future

The Arizona Dispensaries Association announced their plans for a 2020 voter initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis last week. While this article was written prior to the announcement, we've been talking about the prospects for the initiative for a while.

For starters, a statewide poll released by OH Predictive Insight at the beginning of the month indicated wider support for adult-use cannabis than the last time the state voted on an initiative.

In September 2016, Mike Noble, chief pollster for OH Predictive Insight, said he found 47 percent of Arizonans opposed to legalization and 43 percent in favor. While the new poll could be an outlier and is at best a snapshot in time, the numbers have flipped, with 52 percent in favor and 41 percent opposed. Not only has the majority opinion

flipped, but fewer people remain undecided. That's not a surprising development because people generally become more accepting of cannabis the more they learn about it. Go figure.

It's even less surprising considering one of the poll's other insights: older people remain less convinced about cannabis than younger people.

Four years later, there's a lot of former 14-year-olds who can vote (not to mention those above the age of 18 who are more likely to exercise their right to vote). Perhaps a traditionally unnerving notion, but "kids" these days seem a lot more informed than before.

Some 2016 polls showed voters in favor of cannabis then, but a less-organized industry faced formidable opposition from the well-funded Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, who raised more than $2 million to keep cannabis illegal.

This time around, cannabis proponents must face a purported correlation between cannabis and schizophrenia.

Another hurdle for the 2016 initiative was voters' concern over a dispensary stranglehold on the industry. Some provisions appeared to limit benefits of an expanded industry to those already in it. Whether the ADA addresses that concern in this initiative could make or break efforts for legalization.

That concern may be balanced by issues in other states where unfettered growth has led some legitimate businesses to consider black market relief for declining prices of wholesale cannabis—a narrative the opposition will surely seize upon.

Voters may have to decide if adult-use cannabis is worth the price of a tightly controlled industry if proponents need that component in the bill to assuage potential opposition fears.

Another major Arizona cannabis development occurred this week after this article was written. The Arizona Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the appeal of State v. Jones to decide whether cannabis concentrates are protected by the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk has been left to defend her prosecution alone after Attorney General Mark Brnovich pulled his office's support for the case.

While that alone may be enough to convince the court the case is nothing but a personal crusade, the industry has mobilized to form a defense Rodney Jones didn't have before.

It may take some time for the court to come back with a decision, but you can expect a breakdown of what the court heard next week, along with some industry takeaways.

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