Marijuana Policy Project Plans Arizona Legalization Measure for 2016

The national Marijuana Policy Project, bolstered by federal approval of state pot-freedom laws, plans to put a Colorado-style legalization initiative on Arizona's ballot for 2016. It's part of a master plan to pass similar legalization laws in 10 states by 2017.

"We're feeling very good about what we can accomplish," says the MPP's spokesman, former Scottsdalite Mason Tvert.

The group was behind Arizona's historic medical-marijuana law, which voters passed by a narrow margin in 2010 and now support in even greater numbers, surveys claim.

See also: - John McCain: "Maybe We Should Legalize" Marijuana - Arizona's Medical-Marijuana Law Safe From Federal Action in Obama Policy

A poll in May also revealed that most Arizonans support legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, though it's unclear how voters would react to the MPP's latest proposal.

Marjiuana advocates have momentum on their side that doesn't appear likely to fade, at least while Obama's still in office. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department gave its blessing -- with some caveats -- to medical pot laws in Arizona and other states, as wel as voter-approved laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize pot for all adults 21 and older. Colorado's cannabis stores are set to open on January 1st.

This week, a rare hearing about marijuana legalization took place in Congress. Even Republican Senator John McCain has expressed support for the pro-pot movement. In a statement on Friday, McCain basically threw Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and state Attorney General Tom Horne under the psychedelic bus by affirming that "I respect the will of the people."

Horne and Montgomery have been working hard to undermine the voter-sanctioned Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Montgomery told a reporter this week he'd try to derail the MPP's fresh push for legalization.

"We will not get caught flat-footed and late to the issue again," he said, implying he believes that Arizona's medical-pot law passed only because he and other prohibitionists were caught flat-footed and late to the issue.

Tvert, who lives in Colorado, says he doesn't expect a ton of opposition for the planned 2016 ballot initiative.

"Most people don't think adults should be punished simply for using (marijuana)," Tvert says, calling such opinions by prohibitionists "very antiquated" and driven by "weak arguments."

An example of one of those weak arguments can be seen in an opinion piece by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk published this week in a central Arizona newspaper. Polk ticks off a number of reasons why people shouldn't use marijuana, such as the idea that weed "starts the user on a downward life trajectory..." But she spends no time arguing why pot users should be arrested and jailed, as they are now, or why possession of one seed in Arizona should continue to be a felony.

By the way, Arizonans who don't want to wait until 2016 can still sign a petition going around that would put the legalization question on the ballot for next year. If that's successful, the Marijuana Policy Project could save money for campaigns in less pot-friendly states.

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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.