Arizona Democratic Party Endorses Marijuana Legalization — and So Do Some Conservatives

Arizona's marijuana-legalization ballot initiative, Proposition 205, has been endorsed by the Arizona Democratic Party and several other notable groups and politicians.

Voters will decide the fate of the proposition on November 8. If it's approved, adults 21 and older could legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, grow six live plants at home (unless a landlord says no), and buy cannabis products at a limited system of retail cannabis shops like those in the states of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. A poll released last month indicated that 50 percent of Arizonans are ready to vote yes and 10 percent are undecided.

When the national Democratic Party adopted a pro-legalization platform at its convention in Philadelphia in July, the state party wasn't ready to take an official position on Prop 205.

The national platform calls for a "reasoned pathway to future legalization," while for Prop 205, the "future" is now.

"The Arizona Democratic Party proudly supports Prop. 205," state Democratic Party Chair Alexis Tameron said in a prepared statement on Wednesday. "Regulating marijuana like alcohol will enhance public safety, promote social justice, and improve our education system by raising much-needed revenue for schools. These values are shared by Arizonans of all political persuasions, and it is my hope that they will vote 'yes' on Prop. 205." (Tameron did not return a phone call on Wednesday requesting comment for this story.)

Here are some of the endorsements the campaign is touting:

• U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona's Third Congressional District. Grijalva's district covers a wide swath of southern Arizona, including much of Tucson. This move should bump his grade from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from a B-plus to at least an A-minus.

• U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego, who represents the Seventh Congressional District, which includes Phoenix. Gallego ("A" grade from NORML) pledged his support of Prop 205 back in June. As a state legislator, the former Marine introduced a bill that would have legalized marijuana in a manner similar to the current initiative.

• Several state legislators, two members each from the Tucson and Tempe city councils, and one member of the City of Maricopa's council.

• Las Adelitas Arizona, a Latina-oriented political-empowerment group. 

The group behind Prop 205, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona (CRMLA), wants people to know that it isn't just Democrats and Independents who support Prop 205 — it's Republicans, conservatives, and Libertarians, too:

• La Paz County Republican Committee

• Arizona Liberty Caucus

• Arizona Libertarian Party Chairman Michael Kielsky

• Jeffrey Singer, surgeon and Cato Institute adjunct scholar

• Tom Patterson, physician, former Arizona Senate majority leader, former chairman of the Goldwater Institute

"Prohibition of marijuana, like alcohol, simply doesn't work and never will," Patterson is quoted as saying in the CRMLA's news release. "It wastes huge amounts of taxpayers' money and is counterproductive. The results are lawlessness, black markets, and ruined lives. Prop. 205 is a rational, enlightened effort to resist excessive government interference in our lives. As an added bonus, it will provide tools to reduce the access of minors to a drug that may be harmful to them."

Prop 205 picked up $100,000 donation last week from  the soap company Dr. Bronner's, which contributed $660,000 to legalization efforts nationwide.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, the group formed to oppose Prop 205, raised $336,000 in the same timeframe. That amount includes $115,000 from the national anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. But ARDP is still behind in total fundraising, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's website.

The CRMLA pulled in $3.2 million from the national Marijuana Policy Project and local medical-marijuana dispensaries, while ARDP has raised $1.9 million from sources as diverse as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and a company that is under investigation for aggressively marketing an opiate-based drug.