Safer Arizona Fixes Marijuana-Legalization Initiative, Adds Protections for Kids

Safer Arizona Fixes Marijuana-Legalization Initiative, Adds Protections for Kids
Pixabay and RSM via Flickr
Safer Arizona has refiled its marijuana-legalization initiative for 2018 with the state, adding protections for children and making other fixes.

The grassroots group received nationwide attention last week after filing its first version of a planned ballot measure.

"After filing the initiative, they received certain criticisms from cannabis consumers and non consumers that required attention and adjustment before signatures were collected," Safer Arizona's executive director, Dave Wisniewski, wrote on the group's website on Tuesday after submitting the new filing at the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.

The grassroots group has high hopes for its super-permissive ballot measure, which would regulate marijuana like "tomatoes, lettuce, and any other common produce."

First, though, it has to collect 150,642 valid voter signatures by July 2018. That won't be easy with an all-volunteer force.

In November, voters rejected a plan to legalize marijuana in Arizona 52-48. Wisniewski, who opposed that plan, believes voters want something less restrictive.

The Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Act would repeal all of current marijuana laws. Adults 21 and older could possess unlimited amounts of marijuana, plus grow up to 48 plants in their home. Black-market sales would be reduced to civil infractions. Sales and cultivation could occur almost anywhere, with very little regulation.

The measure filed last week had several key flaws, however, that made it too permissive even for Safer Arizona.

Wisniewski told New Times last week that text needed to be added that placed a mandatory, 1,000-foot buffer between schools and cannabis sales or cultivation. Federal authorities could raid the hypothetical cannabis businesses inside that zone, putting Arizona entrepreneurs at risk, he said.

New Times also mentioned to the group's lawyer, Tom Dean, that it seemed quite permissive for the measure to make cannabis sales to children subject only to a civil penalty.

The new filing adjusts that, adding criminal penalties to adults who sell to kids.

It also does a few other interesting things that the first version did not.

Here are the additions and changes found in Safer Arizona's newly filed initiative:

• Commercial grows, home gardens, and retail cannabis sales are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a school.

• Children under age 18 could be arrested for possessing for growing cannabis, but would only be subject to a $50 civil fine for the first offense.

• Adults 21 and older who sell cannabis to children would be subject to a Class One misdemeanor charge, and a $2,500 fine.

• People under 21 who sell to children would be subject only to a $1,000 civil fine.

• Adults 21 and older who sell cannabis to kids 15-17 years old would be subject to a Class Three misdemeanor charge and up to a $2,500 fine.

• Adults 21 and older who sell to adults 18-20 years old would be subject to a $2,500 fine.

• Cultivation of cannabis in personal grows, commercial home grows, or commercial grows may not be visible from public areas at "ground level" without use of binoculars or other aids.

• Local authorities can enact "reasonable zoning regulations" that limit the ability of people or businesses to use their property for growing marijuana.

Wisniewski writes on Safer Arizona's website that the changes now also ensure that a license is required for all cannabis sales, and that the initiative can in "no way can be interpreted to amend the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act."

Update: At least two potential problems remain in the new version:

1. In the section on licensing, 3-3707(D) begins with a half of a sentence. It appears that clause should be connected to 3-3707(B), as it was in the original.

2. The initiative states that the sales tax collected by the state Department of Revenue should not exceed the tax on food. There is no state sales tax on food.

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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.