Supporters of Arizonans for Mindful Regulation have fought the good fight, but chances look slim that their cannabis-legalization measure will make November's ballot.
Even if the group has gathered 100,000 signatures, it has to collect another 100,000 in five months to ensure a ballot spot.
The enthusiastic volunteers and their leader, Jason Medar, threaten to vote “no” on I-08, the legalization initiative backed by the national Marijuana Policy Project and local medical-marijuana dispensaries.
New Times isn't taking a position on which legalization initiative is better, or which one voters should choose if both initiatives happen to appear on the ballot. But if the only choice voters have this year to change marijuana laws is the MPP's Campaign to Regulate and Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona initiative, here are 21 reasons why AZFMR supporters should vote for it:
21. Arizona would overturn one of the country's worst anti-cannabis laws, in which the slightest speck of pot constitutes a Class 6 felony. AZFMR supporters are more likely than most to use, possess, and grow marijuana.
(Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or five grams of concentrates for adults 21 and older would be legal under I-08, and a person would have to possess more than 2.5 ounces before it would be considered a serious crime. The proposed law also would allow adults 21 and older to grow up to six plants in their homes, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.
20. For amounts of less than five grams, the measure would override Arizona's draconian "narcotic" designation of cannabis concentrates like tincture, hash oil, shatter, and wax — products that, for non-medical-cardholders, now are considered a Class 4 felony.
19. Ten people a day in metro Phoenix, including AZFMR supporters, would not be jailed and charged for simple cannabis possession.
18. Even Arizona cannabis consumers of modest means would no longer need to smoke the schwag still being imported by the ton from Mexico.
17. Over time, it would eliminate the need for most medicinal users of cannabis to obtain a medical card, an annual process that requires several hours of time and about $300.
16. Under one provision of I-08, the state would be stopped from unjust child-protective actions against people for merely possessing or using cannabis.
15. Arizona could remain a national leader on at least one progressive issue.
14. If you want to really piss off Republicans and so-called conservatives who support prohibition, this is your chance.
13. With California and Nevada poised to make cannabis legal this year, failing to approve a legalization initiative in 2016 could leave Arizona surrounded by recreational-friendly states — which would not only look ass-backwards but would no doubt cause the state to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in commerce.
12. Even if some cities try to restrict home-growing, those restrictions would be a vast improvement over the current law, which makes any attempt to cultivate cannabis a felony.
11. AZFMR supporters succeeded in forcing the MPP to include cultivation rights in its initiative – and in November, they can reap the rewards of that effort.
10. Buying marijuana would no longer require plastic baggies, frantic phone messages, and a feeling of wrongdoing. (It would, however, still require cash — until changes are made in federal banking rules.)
9. Voting against I-08 because it doesn't go far enough would be like voting against Arizona's initiative for women's suffrage in 1912 because it didn't include Native Americans, who achieved voting rights in the state in 1948.
8. Some AZFMR leaders have claimed that cannabis users would be worse under the MPP's measure than under Arizona's current law, but that's not true: No provision of the initiative creates a crime or penalty that would be worse than the current everything's-a-felony statutes.
7. AZFMR leaders have called the CRMLA's retail-store scheme a “monopoly,” but the plan actually allows for healthy competition – not only among the state's 90 dispensary businesses but among another 70 or so non-dispensary-affiliated retail stores that would be allowed.
6. The limit on the number of retail cannabis shops, which at about 160 under I-08 is one-tenth of what would be allowed under the AZFMR initiative, can be expanded starting in 2021.
5. Instead of being carted off to a filthy, unsafe jail, threatened with a felony, and forced to attend six months of TASC treatment, adults caught smoking pot in public would face only a $300 fine.
4. The unregulated selling any amount of marijuana would remain a felony – but no worse than the felony it is now. Operating an unregulated cannabis retail or cultivation business from an apartment was never going to work as a career, anyway.
3. AZFMR leaders say I-08 would cause an increase in black-market sales and cultivation – but that's not what's happened in Colorado, where authorities say that more than half of the state's cannabis demand is now met with regulated, legal sources.
2. Arizona schools would receive an estimated $72 million a year or more in revenue from taxed, legal cannabis sales that they will not receive if AZFMR supporters help shoot down the initiative.
1. If the well-funded, MPP-backed measure goes down this year, Arizona cannabis supporters better hope for federal changes, because it'll probably be years before voters see another legalization initiative on the ballot.
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