Phoenix Mayor's Chief of Staff Resigns in Wake of Failed Medical Marijuana Tax

Thelda Williams was approved by her peers on the City Council to serve as mayor until a special election in November.
Thelda Williams was approved by her peers on the City Council to serve as mayor until a special election in November.
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The chief of staff to interim Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams resigned suddenly on Monday, three weeks after he pushed an ill-fated proposal to heavily tax medical-marijuana businesses.

Bryan Jeffries, the president of Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, joined the mayor's office in June, the same month that Williams was selected by her peers on the Phoenix City Council to temporarily replace former mayor Greg Stanton.

He previously represented District 2 on the council after his 2011 appointment to fill a vacancy left by former councilwoman Peggy Neely, who resigned to run for mayor. Jeffries ran to retain the seat, but lost to Jim Waring.

Williams' press secretary, Raquel Estupinan, provided a copy of Jeffries' resignation email to Williams, in which Jeffries informed her that he was resigning, effective immediately.

“The opportunity to work with you as Mayor of our beloved City has been a tremendous honor," Jeffries wrote. "This City is so fortunate to have you at the helm.”

Jeffries added that he is willing to provide any information and assistance to Williams and her team.

Estupinan did not respond when asked whether Jeffries' resignation was related to the failure of the marijuana tax. A request for comment to Jeffries via email was not returned.

On September 27, Williams' office surprised council members and medical marijuana industry professionals when she added a proposed occupational licensing tax on cannabis retailers and cultivators to the policy session agenda for the following week.

The hastily announced tax would have required marijuana operators to pay the city hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, or more.

The planned revenue was meant to fund Phoenix's police and fire departments. City staff estimated that the tax would raise roughly $43 million every year.

The City Council unanimously rejected the proposal during the October 2 meeting after backlash from dispensary owners and patients.

Public records obtained by Phoenix New Times show that the mayor's office received a cascade of emails from constituents strongly opposed to the proposed tax shortly after the mayor's office unveiled the measure.

The Arizona Republic reported that Jeffries initially started researching the marijuana tax about a year ago, in his capacity as the head of the Professional Fire Fighters association.

In a statement to New Times when the tax was announced, Williams said, "The proposal is in no way an attempt to single out medical marijuana businesses that operate legally in the city, but [is] a proposal to establish a revenue structure for a growing industry that adds pressure to public safety.”

Williams will serve as mayor until a special election in November (or a possible March runoff) determines a long-term successor to Stanton, who resigned in May to run for Congress.

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