AZ Anti-Pot Crusaders Sue to Keep Legalization Measure Off November Ballot

Another day, another attempt to prevent legalizing marijuana in Arizona.

Less than two weeks after the leading pro-cannabis effort in the state, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, submitted 258,582 petition signatures to the secretary of state to get its Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act initiative on the November ballot, the anti-pot posse announced that it was challenging the legality of the initiative in court.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Maricopa County Superior Court, the plaintiffs — a roster that includes county attorneys Bill Montgomery and Sheila Polk, radio host Seth Leibsohn, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce — contend the CRMLA petition "was circulated under false pretenses."

The plaintiffs' central contention is that the title and short description of the initiative provided to potential signatories failed to describe all details of the act and was therefore "so misleading voters as to cause a fraud on the electorate."

Critics of the lawsuit point out that group circulating a petition is allowed only 100 words to describe its aim, making it difficult, if not impossible, to cover every detail. According to Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, "Arizona courts have ruled that not every single provision of a measure needs to be detailed in those 100 words."

For the record, the summary provided by CRMLA reads:

"The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act: (l) establishes a l5% tax on retail marijuana sales, from which the revenue will be allocated to public health and education; (2) allows adults twenty-one years of age and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana; (3) creates a system in which licensed businesses can produce and sell marijuana; (a) establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana; and (5) provides local governments with the authority to regulate and limit marijuana businesses."

(The full text of the act is and always has been available for voters to review on the CRMLA's website. Read it here.)

But the plaintiffs' charges don't end there. They further contend that the initiative "conflicts with, and seeks to invalidate, Arizona's per se Driving Under the Influence of Drugs laws." That, they argue, would make it contrary to how alcohol is regulated — as opposed to like how alcohol is regulated — and would create problems for employers such as government agencies or transportation companies that might need to prohibit employees from consuming marijuana, in order to comply with federal law. And they say the summary fails to mention that the act would affect the implementation of other state laws — the state's Cash Assistance Program, for instance, which currently denies assistance to those who fail a drug test — not to mention family laws, homeowner laws, drug laws, and regulations governing military personnel.

What's more, the plaintiffs write, the act is "inherently inconsistent," in that it would allow a person over the age of 21 both to possess only one ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants at his or her residence, and six plants yield more than one ounce.

"The Initiative's own text, therefore, contradictorily prohibits a person from possessing more than one ounce of marijuana, while at the same time allowing a person to possess much more than one ounce of marijuana. This constitutes a fraud on voters who cannot know what they are voting to legalize when the Initiative both prohibits and allows the same conduct," the complaint alleges.

Leaders of CRMLA, who are reviewing the lawsuit and have yet to issue a formal legal response, immediately blasted the lawsuit as "a desperate attempt to deprive Arizona voters of the right to vote on this ballot question."

"Our opponents have demonstrated that they are willing to do and say just about anything to maintain the failed policy of marijuana prohibition," CRMLA campaign chairman J.P. Holyoak writes in an e-mail to New Times. "Our opponents are going to great lengths to continue punishing adults for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol. They are doing everything in their power to keep marijuana production and sales in an uncontrolled underground market. Cartels and gangs are probably quietly cheering them on right now, as they are the ones who would benefit most if this lawsuit is successful."

A preliminary hearing is set for Tuesday, July 19, in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Read the full text of the complaint here:

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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser