Arizona's Prop 205 Campaign Makes It Official, Concedes Marijuana-Legalization Loss

Arizona's Prop 205 campaign has finally conceded, ending the high hopes of hundreds of thousands of residents that the state would legalize marijuana.

With the first few waves of voting results on November 8, the initiative looked like a goner. The Associated Press called it for the "no" side later that night. But dedicated election watchers and cannabis aficionados stayed positive, knowing that in a close race the final votes could be the key to victory, like they were in the 2010 medical-marijuana vote.

It wasn't to be. California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voters legalized recreational marijuana. Voters in North Dakota and Florida said "yes" to medical marijuana. But Arizona voters rejected Prop 205 by about 52-48 — see our previous story for some of the reasons why it failed.

The initiative aimed to give adults 21 and older the freedom to possess and use up to an ounce of dried marijuana, up to five grams of concentrated resin like hashish, and up to six live plants with a maximum of 12 per household. It would also have created a system of retail stores, giving preference to existing, nonprofit medical-marijuana dispensary companies. The campaign submitted about 259,000 signatures to the state in July to make the ballot.

Here's the entire statement just released from J.P. Holyoak, chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona and a local dispensary operator:

"We thank the more than 1 million Arizona voters who cast their ballots in favor of ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. We are disappointed the initiative came up short, but we are encouraged by the impressive amount of support it received given this was the first time voters had considered such a proposal. Marijuana has been illegal for decades, so we knew this was going to be an uphill battle. We ran a positive, fact-based campaign that fostered a much-needed public dialogue about this subject, and we are confident it will lend to positive change in the future.

"Sadly, adults in Arizona will continue to face felony charges for possessing small amounts of marijuana despite the fact that is less harmful than alcohol. Marijuana will continue to be sold in a criminal market where sales will generate millions of dollars each year for drug cartels instead of our schools. Fortunately, Arizona’s medical marijuana program remains strong and patients will be able to continue safely and legally obtaining marijuana through a regulated system.

"This year's election did not close the book on marijuana prohibition in Arizona, but the writing on the wall could not be clearer. It is too soon to provide any specific details, but we intend to continue fighting in support of sensible marijuana policy reform. Thanks to the gains we made with the Prop. 205 campaign, we are confident that Arizona will be among the next round of states to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana like alcohol."

Seth Leibsohn, former chair of the opposition group, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, left his position in the middle of the campaign for some reason. He still followed the election, though, tweeting out on Wednesday, "Thank you AZ for sending Prop. 205's traveling snake oil show back to the 19th Century where it belongs!"

The new chair, Adam DeGuire, could not be reached for comment. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, the group's co-chair, failed to return a message. But Polk tweeted out her thanks to Governor Doug Ducey, who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the group: "So grateful to Gov. Ducey for his leadership in protecting Arizona's children. We owe this victory to him."

Below, some more messages from the "winners:"

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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.