Arizona One Step Closer to Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in 2020

A ballot measure creating regulations for recreational cannabis sales in Arizona was filed with the Secretary of State on August 9.

A campaign initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona is one step closer to making its way on the 2020 ballot. The Smart & Safe Arizona initiative was filed with the Secretary of State on August 9. Back in 2016, a ballot measure legalizing adult-use cannabis failed to pass by a margin of about 3 percent.

This time around, the initiative’s advocates say they took a different approach. Stacy Pearson, spokesperson and senior vice president with Strategies 360 in Phoenix, stated in an report that the new campaign spent time gaining feedback from a wide variety of people, including those who opposed the first measure.

“Ultimately we found a policy that provides the maximum authority to the government to regulate, the maximum penalty for folks that are not complying with the rules, the footprint that people could tolerate — so, not a dispensary on every corner, we heard folks loud and clear that they didn’t want that — and that will be a substantial amount of revenue to the state for projects that are critical,” Pearson said.

If passed, the Smart & Safe Arizona initiative would:

  • Legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis by anyone 21 years of age or older and allow adults to grow up to six plants at their home.
  • Prohibit smoking marijuana in public places.
  • Place a 16 percent excise tax on cannabis products, which would be used to fund a variety of programs headed up by the Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Safety, including addiction prevention, substance abuse treatment, teen suicide prevention, mental health programs, and other justice reinvestment projects.
  • Generate an estimated $300 million in new revenue to fund community colleges, fire and police departments, and public health programs.
  • Offer those charged with low-level marijuana offenses a chance to seal their records.

In order for the proposal to be placed on the November 2020 election ballot, advocates must collect 237,64 signatures from registered voters by July 2, 2020.

According to reports, major funding efforts for the proposal are coming from medical marijuana dispensaries already established in the state, including Harvest Health and Recreation Inc., Curaleaf Holdings Inc., and MedMen Enterprises Inc.

Tim Sultan, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, told the Phoenix New Times that the new measure involves state residents in more ways than the previous initiative.

“This bill represents the right balance for Arizona right now,” Sultan stated. “It gives back to the state and the people of Arizona in the form of tax revenue, education, and public safety.”

Arizonians’ Current Access to Marijuana

In 2010, Arizona residents gained access to medical cannabis. The voter-approved law establishing medical marijuana regulations in the state allows for qualified patients to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks.

Under Arizona’s marijuana law, registered medical marijuana patients are allowed to grow plants at home if they live more than 25 miles from a dispensary.

Cannabis in 2020

Voters in several other states are likely to also have the opportunity to vote on marijuana policy in 2020. Efforts are underway in Idaho to place a recreational marijuana measure on the ballot, and a prominent lawyer in Florida who successfully funded the passage of a medical marijuana ballot measure now has his sights on supporting one that would legalize recreational use.

Cannabis legalization has been found to be one of the most popular issues for Americans. The widespread growing favor for cannabis reform already appears to be playing a role in the 2020 presidential race.

While cannabis reform could make a big splash in 2020, there have been several notable cannabis policy wins already in 2019.

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