15 Jun Battle Lines Drawn Over Arizona Legalization
In Arizona, efforts are underway to put a measure legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot for the 2016 election. Spearheaded by the Marijuana Policy Project, legalization efforts will require activists to gather over 150,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot. However, while activists gather signatures, legalization opponents are gathering money and supporters as they prepare for the impending electoral battle.
Under the proposed measure, marijuana would be legal for anyone 21 years or older. Citizens could grow up to 12 plants per person, taxes would be set at 15 percent, and individuals could pay for a $7,500 license to sell marijuana without opening a dispensary.
The ballot language was the result of a compromise by the Marijuana Policy Project and an offshoot group, Safer Arizona, run by former MPP campaign chairwoman Gina Berman. Safer Arizona formed after disagreements within MPP over licensing and medical marijuana dispensaries.
Speaking with The Tucson Weekly, Mike Weisser of Safer Arizona said that while the bill is imperfect it represents the best chance of legalization for Arizona.”Not everybody is happy with the language,” said Weisser. “I am not in love with all of the components, but we have the best compromise we are going to get.”
Assuming that enough signatures are gathered to get on the ballot, advocates will face steep opposition from the both the Republican Party and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.
“[L]egalizing marijuana sends a profoundly disturbing message to our children about the choices they will be making in life,” Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham told the Phoenix Business Journal. “We’ve already heard from law enforcement officials that marijuana supposedly used for medicinal purposes is being abused and ending up in the hands of children and young teens and we need to reverse that trend.”
To Graham’s credit, recent reports state the number of children “exposed to marijuana” have increased by a rate of 610 percent between 2000 and 2013. However, what is often ignored is the fact that there have only been a total number of 1,969 incidents in that time frame; or one incident every 2.4 days.
To put it in a broader context: according to CBS News, “17,230 children younger than 6 years old — an average of one child every hour — swallowed, inhaled or suffered skin or eye injury from the [laundry pod] products in 2012-2013.” Now that’s a trend worth reversing.
Elsewhere in the state, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a press statement opposing legalization efforts. “There is no upside to the legalization of recreational marijuana,” Chamber President and CEO Glenn Hamer said. “No credible economic development organization would tout marijuana legalization as a reason to locate in Arizona.”
While it is difficult to estimate the impact of marijuana legalization on the workplace just yet, one can still say that marijuana legalization can lead to positive economic outcomes. According to The Cannabist, Colorado took in $44 million from recreational marijuana taxes last year.
If marijuana gets on the 2016 ballot, it is going to be a long and dirty fight. Specials interests and PACs, like Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy, have started cropping up and raising money even before the race has begun. However, it may be a losing fight for opponents.
According to a recent poll, approximately 53 percent of Arizonans support legalization while only 39 percent oppose it. If that number can hold, or even grow, then no amount of money or dissent will be able to silence the tidal wave of voices in support for sensible marijuana reform.