The last adult-use cannabis legalization measure on the ballot in Arizona, Proposition 205, failed to pass by a slim margin of about 3 percent back in 2016.
The Arizona Dispensaries Association, which is backing legalization in the upcoming 2020 election, released the details of a new ballot measure on Friday, hoping the grass will be greener the second time around.
"This bill represents the right balance for Arizona right now," said Tim Sultan, executive director of the ADA. "It gives back to the state and the people of Arizona in the form of tax revenue, education, and public safety."
"Back in 2016, other stakeholders were not involved in the measure," he continued. "There was no buy-in from the community."
The Smart and Safe Act will be on the 2020 ballot if supporters turn in a minimum of 237,645 valid voter signatures by July 2, 2020. Here are some of the key points of the measure, according to the ADA:
- Arizonans 21 and over would be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, of which five grams could be concentrates.
- Each adult could grow six plants at home, with a maximum of 12 plants in homes with numerous adults.
- Smoking marijuana in public or open spaces, such as restaurants, parks, and sidewalks, would be prohibited.
- Employers and property owners would have the right to forbid use at their workplaces and on their property.
- People who were previously convicted of low-level marijuana charges would have the option to have their criminal records sealed, providing them fair access to employment and housing.
- An excise tax of 16 percent would be placed on cannabis products, in addition to regular taxes, similar to any other retail good.
- Funds collected from the excise tax would go toward state agencies like the Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Safety, with remaining funds divided primarily between community colleges, fire and police departments, and public health programs.
Other key provisions include the creation of more dispensary licenses, protections for children including a ban on cannabis products that "resemble the form of a human, animal, insect, fruit, toy, or cartoon," and a provision that prohibits "driving, flying, or boating while impaired to the slightest degree." It does not establish a maximum amount of marijuana metabolites drivers can have in their blood.
Sultan also mentioned the justice reinvestment program outlined in the measure, which would utilize some money from the excise tax to help those who have been affected by the consequences of marijuana prohibition.
"Arizona is on the verge of a historical vote, especially for those interested in cannabis policy," said Demitri Downing, founder of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association in Arizona. "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."
Stacy Pearson, senior vice president of Strategies 360 in Phoenix, is also convinced that Arizona will embrace the future ahead of it. The public relations firm was tapped by the ADA to run the campaign in part because of its success in Alaska, where voters approved a recreational cannabis measure in 2014.
"I am very confident voters will look at this initiative and see that it is good policy for Arizona — and it will pass," Pearson said. "We know what to avoid based on the way the industry has taken shape."
When asked specifically about employer rights, she acknowledged that some sectors may be more willing to concede than others. "There are industries that will continue to have a zero-tolerance policy, and that's okay," she said. "We have also specifically allowed for the Legislature to adopt national standards as they become available."
"We have all been rewarded for the wait with this initiative," said Mikel Weisser of the Arizona chapter of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). "The consumer protections are far reaching, and the social impact was consciously, deliberately considered. Arizona can be proud. This is worth fighting for."
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Not everyone shares in the enthusiasm. The business community strongly opposed legalization back in 2016, noted Mara Mellstrom, director of public affairs at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"With that said, we will assess this new 2020 measure like we would any policy proposal. In light of our strong opposition from four years ago, however, proponents have a high bar to clear in order to convince us to adopt a new position," she said.
Read the initiative below: