Arizona Clears Path To Vote On Adult-Use Cannabis Market

Everything you need to know about legalization in Arizona.

The State of Arizona is that much closer to passing comprehensive laws allowing the consumption of recreational cannabis by anyone over the age of 21.

Efforts to keep this measure off the upcoming November ballot came up short, as word of the latest appeal failing in court began to spread across the state earlier this month.

On August 7th, 2020, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled against the group, Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy, which claimed that the petitions being circulated for signature by voters were misleading and potentially tricking them into supporting the Smart and Safe Act. The challenge brought by ARDP highlighted key provisions of the act that were omitted from the 100 word summary listed on the petition, but that did little to sway the courts.

In response to the claim that the petition was incomplete and misleading, Judge Smith said it was not possible for a 100 word summary to include all the details of every provision. He also made it clear that it was reasonable to believe that the person signing the petition understood the ramifications of passing laws that legalize the possession and use of marijuana throughout the state of Arizona.

Drawing OF A THC Molecule THC MoleculeGetty Images

What Is Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy?

Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy ("ARDP") is a non-profit organization that was formed in 2015. Our mission is to raise awareness about the harms of marijuana and other substances, and to oppose the legalization of marijuana. We are dedicated to sharing information about the effects of legalization experiments in other states and to fighting back against the for-profit marijuana industry that makes money from an addictive product. We are a volunteer-based organization. Board members do not draw salaries. All donations support our educational materials, printing expenses, billboards, advertising, and other efforts to spread our message.

It was this group, ARDP, that led the opposition to, and ultimately defeated prop 205, a bill that would have legalized cannabis in the State of Arizona. At the time of the 2016 election, there were 5 states with legal marijuana on their ballot, and out of all five of them, Arizona was the only state to vote no on the measure. According to the ARDP website, thirteen out of fifteen counties in Arizona voted against Prop 205 with more than 51% voting no.

Following this most recent loss, an ARDO representative said that another appeal was the most likely next step for the organization and should be expected in the near future.

However, it might be too little too late for anyone hoping ARDP's efforts would prevent Prop 205 from making it to the November ballot. At long last, redemption could be on the way for legal cannabis advocates who were unable to gather the necessary votes to include the Smart and Safe Act prior to the 2016 election.

Officials made the announcement that out of the 420,000 signatures submitted, the 238,000 necessary to advance the measure have been verified and a path has been cleared to include the Smart and Safe Act just in time for the 2020 election.

What Is the Smart and Safe Act?

  • Arizonans 21 and over would be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, of which five grams could be concentrates.
  • Each adult could grow six plants at home, with a maximum of 12 plans in homes with numerous adults.
  • Smoking marijuana in public or open spaces, such as restaurants, parks, and sidewalks, would be prohibited.
  • Employers and property owners would have the right to forbid use at their workplaces and on their property.
  • People who were previously convicted of low-level marijuana charges would have the option to have their criminal records sealed, providing them fair access to employment and housing.
  • An excise tax of 16 percent would be placed on cannabis products, in addition to regular taxes, similar to any other retail good.
  • Funds collected from the excise tax would go toward state agencies like the Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Safety, with remaining funds divided primarily between community colleges, fire and police departments, and public health programs.
What Else Would Change??
In addition to the numerous changes listed above, the Smart and Safe Act would also allow for the creation of more dispensary licenses, a provision that prohibits the operation of motor vehicles, "driving, flying, or boating while impaired to the slightest degree", as well as a ban on any all cannabis products that "resemble the form of a human, animal, insect, fruit, toy, or cartoon.", according to the Phoenix Times.
One thing that this bill does not establish, is a limit on the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) metabolites the operator of a motor vehicle can have at the time of operation. This happens to be an issue that every state with a legal cannabis program is dealing with, as it is nearly impossible to assess how much marijuana someone has been smoking and when they last consumed the drug.
No matter what happens, this is going to be a pivotal year for the cannabis industry in America. Several key states have done what is necessary to put legalization to a vote in November, and if all goes well, millions more Americans will have safe, reliable access to cannabis that they know will not hurt them or make them sick.

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