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Election 2020: Arizona marijuana legalization initiative guide

July 29, 2020
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Latest news on the Smart and Safe Act Arizona

July 22 (AP) — A group opposed to legalized recreational marijuana in Arizona filed a lawsuit to halt an initiative that would allow adults in the state to possess up to 1 ounce of adult-use cannabis. Voters see the summary when they sign petitions to qualify an initiative for the ballot. The lawsuit challenges the 100-word summary of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, saying it misleads voters about key provisions of the initiative.

The lawsuit was filed by several voters belonging to a group called Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, a political committee opposed to legalizing marijuana. The challenge to the marijuana legalization initiative claims the summary of the proposal failed to tell voters who signed petitions that the proposed law:

  • Would cover more potent forms of marijuana.
  • Doesn’t specifically say that a 16% tax on cannabis sales can’t be increased by the Legislature.
  • Change state law on driving under the influence.

The lawsuit will be heard in the coming weeks under expedited scheduling orders. Arizonans for Health and Public Safety’s primary funding comes from the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative organization that backs traditional families and promotes religious freedom and anti-abortion legislation.

Legalization measure

Read the full text of the initiative here: Smart and Safe Act Arizona

Medical or Recreational?

Recreational

What the latest polls say

65% in favor (June 1, 2020, HighGround Public Affairs poll, 5% margin of error)

What the law would do

The Smart and Safe Act would legalize the possession of cannabis for Arizonans 21 years or older, and create a market for regulated sales. Furthermore, it would require that fixed amounts of tax revenue be allocated to various education, public health, and public safety programs.

Campaign sponsors

  • Smart and Safe Arizona is a citizen-led initiative.
  • Strategies 360 is running the campaign. Former Rep. Chad Campbell and political consultant Stacy Pearson are leading the charge.

Local legalization advocates

Local legalization opponents

How many stores would be licensed?

The Act calls for the licensing of about 160 retail cannabis stores in the state. The majority of the licenses would go to the pre-existing 130 licensed medical dispensaries. The state would allocate 26 additional social equity licenses, and a handful of new licenses in rural counties that currently fewer than two medical dispensaries.

Would marijuana be taxed?

All retail cannabis products would be subject to a 16% excise tax, in addition to the state’s preexisting sales tax.

5 things to know about the proposed law

  • Adults will be able to possess 1 ounce of marijuana (with no more than 5 grams of it being marijuana concentrate)
  • “The law limits home cultivation to 6 plants at an individual’s primary residence and 12 plants at a residence where two or more individuals who are at least 21 years old reside at one time.”
  • Employers will have the right to maintain a drug (and alcohol)-free workplace.
  • The state cannot consider rule changes to allow for delivery services until January 1 2023.
  • “Beginning on July 12, 2021, people convicted previously of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana or six or fewer plants or paraphernalia can petition to have the record expunged.”

Current cannabis law in Arizona

Quotes from legalization advocates

  • “It will qualify [for the ballot], and it’s inevitable that Arizonans will legalize adult-use marijuana.” Stacy Pearson, spokesperson for Smart and Safe Arizona
  • “Arizonans are ready to legalize cannabis and this is the right policy for our state…New jobs and revenue are even more critical today than when we embarked on this campaign last year.” Steve White, president, Arizona Dispensary Association 

Quotes from legalization opponents

  • “Despite the assurances of marijuana proponents, more harm than good will result from legalization…The potential consequences of legalization are severe, ranging from an uptick in workplace accidents and lower overall workplace productivity, to jeopardizing our workforce development efforts, to costs that come with drug treatment and rehabilitation…We’re already navigating a global pandemic; we don’t need to put even more stress on the public health system.” Garrick Taylor, senior vice president of government relations and communications for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • “I think there’s a lot here to worry about. If you have a vote that says it’s OK to use it, I think those kids who might be on the fence might be more likely to say ‘The voters say it’s a good thing to have, it can’t be bad for us.’ I think it makes it more legitimate in the eyes of a teenager.” Robert Leger, spokesperson for Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy

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Max Savage Levenson

Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.

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