Backers of an Arizona marijuana-legalization initiative blasted pot-prohibitionist Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for taking alcohol-industry cash.
J.P. Holyoak and other representatives of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona
gave a news conference at Montgomery's downtown Phoenix office, using an over-sized, symbolic refund check for $8,050 to help make their point.
If Montgomery can't prove marijuana's more harmful than booze, Holyoak said, he ought to return the donations he's received recently from executives at Hensley and Company and Crescent Crown Distribution.
The campaign aims to put a ballot initiative before voters in November that would allow adults 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. It also calls for allowing current medical-marijuana dispensaries — plus a few dozen other businesses — to sell marijuana products.
Montgomery's been one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed law and claims that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol
"Our campaign is calling on Bill Montgomery: Either prove alcohol isn't more dangerous or return the money from the alcohol industry," Holyoak said Wednesday, standing with the oversized check in front of the county administration building at Third Avenue and Jefferson Street.
Holyoak said he's not attacking alcohol or its industry, but only hypocrisy.
"We know marijuana is objectively safer," he said. "I'm not suggesting we go back to the days of Prohibition, but current prohibition makes less sense."
The campaign released Montgomery's February 1 campaign-finance report to New Times, which shows that he took the contributions from Andy McCain, Robert Delgado, and Douglas Yonko of Hensley, and James Moffett Jr. of Crescent Crown.
After the brief presentation, Holyoak and CRMLA campaign manager Adam Kinsey entered the building, followed by reporters, to try to give the check to Montgomery. Several security officers showed up to keep watch. After taking the elevator to the eighth floor, Holyoak took the check to the county attorney's front reception desk. John Dorsey, an investigator with the office, emerged to talk to Holyoak. He wouldn't take Holyoak's check.
Reached on Wednesday afternoon, Montgomery denied that he took donations from the "alcohol industry" but added he "quite possibly" accepted donations from friends or other people who may work in the beer or wine industry.
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He pointed out that regardless of the donations, he was opposed to legalizing marijuana long before the current campaign cycle, adding that, "They're just blowing smoke."
If anything's hypocritical, he said, it's the way dispensary owners are pushing an initiative that gives them exclusive rights to the first recreational-use licenses.
"Crony capitalism through the ballot box," he called it.
Whatever the truth about legalized marijuana, Montgomery's statements must be juxtaposed by the fact that his office prosecutes thousands of low-level marijuana offenders each year.