Prop 205: Let’s Make a Deal

Will Arizonans make a deal to sacrifice regulatory concerns to eliminate the majority of marijuana felony arrests?

Prop 205 trudges towards the ballot amidst mounting concerns from critics.

Much of the literature condemning the marijuana legalization initiatives takes issue with the new system the proposition would put in place.

On the surface, the law would legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and possession outside of the home up to one ounce. Users would also be able to retain the yield from up to six plants within their homes.

However, behind the proposition's veil lies the shadow of a beast of which many are leery. That beast is the proposed Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control and its Marijuana Commission, which would be responsible for industry oversight and enforcement.

The Arizona Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, Carlos Alfaro, thinks many of these fears are misrepresentations of the initiative.

"One of the reasons we put in the commission for licenses and control was so that they would have the adequate stage to put these regulations in place, to protect the consumer and to not overburden the industry with regulations," Alfaro said.

Moon Smoke Shop has been especially critical of this law in several facets, including the supposed destruction of current medical marijuana programs and the lack of protection against felony arrest but mainly the department's regulatory authority over marijuana accessories.

Michael "Patches" Patch, the manager of Moon Smoke Shop on Fourth Avenue, isn't willing to take the risk that the commission will choose to limit the shop's ability to sell products that may or may not be associated with marijuana use.

Patches takes issue with "the fact that they're making it a felony to have an 'x' amount of anything, when it should be recreational, the concept of closing down smoke shops, just monopolizing the whole concept."

But Alfaro says there would be no reason for the commission to regulate the number of smoke shops that sell marijuana products.

"The current smoke shops are going to operate the same way that they've been operating under prohibition," Alfaro said. "If anything it's going to increase their business."

The Marijuana Policy Project unleashed a new ad campaign last week to generate support for the proposition with the backing of school officials focusing on the money that it would generate for schools.

The MPP says that the initiative has the potential to raise more than $55 million annually for schools.

The Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee determined that nearly $500 million will be spent annually on recreational marijuana, generating more than $123 million in tax revenue for the state.

Of the $55 million going towards the school system, 40 percent of the revenue would go directly to operating costs, 40 percent would go to full-day kindergarten programs (of which Alfaro says Gov. Doug Ducey is a big fan) and the remaining 20 percent would go to educational programs to instruct children of the relative harms of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.

"What better way to fund our education system than with real education instead of just prohibition from the 1930s?" Alfaro said.

The main selling point of the proposition, though, isn't the funding it would generate for schools. Alfaro says it's the decrease in arrests, unofficially stating that it would wipe out 90 percent of the arrests for marijuana possession.

"What we do know is this would affect the majority of people who get busted today, the majority of people that have that felony follow them through life, this would get rid of that," Alfaro said. "While it's not as perfect as some people see it, this is the best opportunity we have to end 1930s prohibition and bring in good regulation."

This seems to be the decision facing voters in November: Will we concede on our skepticism of exactly how this law will affect the industry in order to eliminate the vast majority of marijuana arrests?

While roughly half of Arizona voters support marijuana legalization, fewer support this proposition.

It's not a decision that can be made on anything but a personal level.

Patches has already made his decision: "I say sit it out, recreate it, write something that serves the people better, something that the people of Arizona actually want instead of the powers that be."

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