The Skinny

Weed Killers

Gov. Ducey and his allies are preparing to battle a proposition to legalize recreational use of marijuana

Opposition to a proposed 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana is starting to come together.

The main opponents, thus far, are Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

"On the business side, recreational marijuana exposes employers to increased workplace accidents, more workers' compensation claims and lower overall workplace productivity," chamber officials noted in a statement posted on its website last week. "We also can't ignore the adverse effects marijuana has on adolescents' developing brains, which has serious implications for the development of Arizona's workforce talent pipeline. No credible economic development organization would tout marijuana legalization as a reason to locate in Arizona. Legalization sends the wrong message to the companies we want to grow and invest here."

Barrett Marson, a spokesman for the initiative effort, said he was looking forward to a robust campaign.

"This marijuana initiative would provide millions of dollars for the state, boost education, reduce crime and give people a personal choice of using marijuana without fear of criminal charges," Marson told the Weekly via email. "Medical marijuana is a $144 million a year business in Arizona. Allowing adults the opportunity to legally use marijuana provides significant benefits to the state and the business community. Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol, which causes thousands of deaths every year."

The big question now looming over the legalization battle is how much money the prohibitionist side wants to dump into the race.

The Marijuana Policy Project, which is supporting the legalization effort, is expected to spend several million dollars on the signature gathering and the subsequent campaign. And MPP, in recent years, has more wins than loses to its credit.

But they also haven't faced a big-spending opponent in states such as Washington or Colorado, where voters made recreational weed legal in 2014.

Ducey has allies with deep pockets—and some of those allies, including dark-money kingpin Sean Noble, announced last week that they'd be running the anti-legalization campaign through their newly formed PR and political consulting group, Axiom Public Affairs.

Whether the dark-money crowd will want to throw a lot of money at this effort remains to be seen. Many of the biggest donors—such as the Koch brothers—tend to be libertarian in nature, as do local groups like the Goldwater Institute.

CD2 Scramble

State lawmaker Victoria Steele explores congressional race while other Dems take a pass

State lawmaker Victoria Steele is the latest Democrat to announce that she is exploring a challenge to Congresswoman Martha McSally, who narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Ron Barber in the closest congressional race in the country last year.

Steele said she had been "surprised and deeply humbled by the large number of people who have asked me to consider running for Congress."

"The folks I have met believe their voices have been silenced by dark money that put millions into this last election," Steele said in a statement to the media. "They are discouraged and disgusted with what is happening and they are running out of hope. When I look into their eyes and I hear their stories, I know one thing—it is time to stand up and fight." Steele said her exploratory committee would allow her to gauge the level of support for her potential campaign.

While Steele may share the disgust of many voters when it comes to the rising influence of dark money, here's the sad reality: It's here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, so a big part of running for Congress involves cold, hard cash. Whoever gets into the race had better be ready to dial for dollars: Spending on the 2014 CD2 race in which McSally unseated Barber was in the neighborhood of $14 million, with McSally and Barber both raising more than $4 million each.

Other potential Democratic candidates include former state lawmaker Matt Heinz and Nan Walden, a former D.C. attorney and current Sahuarita pecan farmer/Rosemont mine opponent. State lawmaker Bruce Wheeler told The Skinny last week that he was getting out of the race because he has a health problem with an eye; a few days later, state lawmaker Randy Friese said he wouldn't be seeking the seat, either.

"I have made the decision to stay in the Arizona House of Representatives and keep working to bring people together right here to solve problems for Arizonans," Friese told supporters in an email.

Access Allowed

Funding is available for public-access station until new operation launches

As part of its approval of a $1.4 billion budget last week, the Tucson City Council agreed to kick $25,000 to Access Tucson to keep the public-access station from going dark over the next few months. The city is combining the public-access facilities with the city's own Channel 12 in a new community media center that is designed to handle both those responsibilities as well as some new responsibilities. But while the city goes through the process of selecting a new organization to run the community media center, it will continue funding the cost of putting programming on the Access channel. The downtown studio closed its production facility to the public last month.

Access Tucson Executive Director Lisa Horner said she was surprised by the council's decision, which was hammered out as the council members discussed the budget.  "Clearly, there was political will to ensure that the channels for community media not cease to program while the city channel maintained funding as well," Horner said.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 9:30 a.m. Sundays on KGUN-9. This week's guests are UA College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz and author Megan Kimble, whose debut book Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food is set for release next week.

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