Arizona Marijuana Legalization Favored by Majority in State, New Poll Shows

A ballot initiative that aims to give adults the freedom to use, possess, and grow marijuana in Arizona might pass if the vote were held today, a new poll shows.

About 600,000 Arizonans 21 and older use cannabis, according to research from the state legislature. All face potential felony charges and jail for their use in zero-tolerance Arizona.

Proposition 205 offers a new approach to marijuana similar to that seen in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, with expanded liberties for adults 21 and older, plus a system of retail shops where cannabis products would be sold.

Prohibitionists, including Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, sued to deny Arizonans the right to vote on the measure. But their claims were dismissed in a state Supreme Court ruling in August, clearing the way for voters to make their choice on November 8.

A recent poll, sponsored by the Arizona Republic and Arizona State University's Morrison Institute of Public Policy and the school's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, reveals that 50 percent of voters favor Prop 205, while 39.9 percent oppose it, and 10.2 percent are undecided.

It's the first poll in which people were asked specifically about the upcoming proposition that showed majority support. A poll released by OH Predictive Insights on September 6 showed the measure losing 51 percent to 40 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

Even with the new poll, it appears the election will be a nail biter. The state's medical-marijuana law, which now has about 100,000 patients and 99 dispensaries, passed in 2010 by only 4,341 votes out of about 1.5 million cast.

As with other polls, this one found that marijuana legalization is supported less by Republicans and older folks and more by Democrats, Independents, and younger voters. The deadline to register to vote in the November 8 election is October 10.

Seth Leibsohn, chair of the group opposing Prop 205, didn't return a message seeking comment.

"We've always said this was going to be a close race, and that's why we will have a vigorous campaign to educate voters," says Barrett Marson, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona. The group is supported by the national Marijuana Policy Project and Arizona dispensaries that will benefit from the law.

Marson says that over the next two months, voters should expect to see TV ads and other promotional material from the campaign. The CRMLA will continue to talk about the benefits of ending prohibition and sending tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue to Arizona schools, he says.

The new poll also showed that most Arizonans have a favorable view of Governor Doug Ducey, that presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running neck and neck in the state, and that voters would overwhelmingly approve a ballot measure to raise Arizona's minimum wage.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.