Back in 2016, Arizona tried to legalize recreational cannabis. That effort failed but only by a small margin. A new campaign to legalize cannabis has its sights firmly set on 2020, but how will citizens in the Grand Canyon State vote?
Arizona is historically a relatively conservative state, and that fact’s borne out by the split between Arizonans when it comes to the question of legal cannabis. When efforts to make recreational cannabis legal in 2016 failed, another valiant attempt was made in 2018. Back then, Todd Clodfelter and Mark Cardenas put forward a bipartisan bill to allow for recreational cannabis possession up to one ounce (28g). However, that attempt also fell on deaf ears and didn’t pass the judiciary committee.
Cannabis advocates in Arizona appear to have had enough of the failed attempts and want a say in the matter. Cannabis legalization advocates in the state want the issue to be squarely put at the feet of Arizonans in the upcoming 2020 vote. Smart and Safe Arizona are the group responsible for spearheading the proposal which they hope will pave the way for full cannabis legalization.
As Stacy Pearson from Smart and Safe Arizona said, according to a High Times report, “It’s just simply a better policy,” referring to the changes made to the 2016 proposal. “We’ve had four additional years to see what’s happened nationally,” she said.
For their part, Smart and Safe Arizona have already filed the relevant paperwork with the Secretary of State. The hope is to have the question of legal recreational cannabis on the ballot in 2020, although legislators could pre-empt that if the campaign gains too much momentum. Bearing in mind that medical cannabis only became legal in 2010 by the narrowest of margins, with 50.1% of the vote, it remains to be seen which way the tide will turn with the forthcoming ballot.
As Pearson explained, “What we’re asking voters to do is take something that is on the black market currently and move it to a place where it’s tested, taxed, controlled, regulated, and ensure that it’s not being sold to minors.” That sentiment resonates loud and clear with at least half of the citizens of Arizona, according to some estimates.
Things appear to be moving in the right direction as even the Arizona Chamber of Commerce said they are willing to give the new proposals a fair hearing. With that said, the burden of proof will be high, and that may not bode so well for cannabis advocates. The new initiative includes seven key points when it comes to legalizing cannabis recreationally:
- Only residents of Arizona aged 21 and over will be entitled to possess cannabis (up to one ounce)
- Residents who are at least 21 are entitled to cultivate six cannabis plants at home.
- The consumption of cannabis in public spaces like parks and sidewalks will be prohibited.
- Private firms or business owners are entitled to refuse to allow the consumption of cannabis on their premises.
- Those will previous cannabis convictions will be allowed to “seal” their criminal records to seek employment reasonably.
- All cannabis products in Arizona will carry a 16% excise tax in addition to regular taxes.
- Excise tax proceeds would be earmarked for various agencies including the Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Safety.
There are also other measures proposed in the legislation to deter minors from being tempted by cannabis products. For example, in the wording of the proposal, any products that, “resemble the form of a human, animal, insect, fruit, toy, or cartoon,” will be banned. Meanwhile, founder of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association in Arizona, Demitri Downing, is hopeful that residents of Arizona will vote for the bill, which he thinks is common sense.
“Arizona is on the verge of a historical vote, especially for those interested in cannabis policy,” said Downing. “Love marijuana or hate it, prohibition is not and has never been the management policy that helps anyone. My prediction is that common sense will prevail in our libertarian-minded state.”
According to Smart and Safe Arizona, the state could raise as much as $300 million annually to go toward the overall budget. With that being the case, there’s a good chance that residents of Arizona will be given the choice of recreational cannabis at the ballot box in 2020.