One Step Closer: Arizona Marijuana Legalization Petition Hits Goal

Arizonans have decided that they should be the ones to decide if recreational marijuana use should be legalized in their state. And a petition to get this initiative on the November ballot has just reached its goal of 220,000 signatures, more than the required number in that state. But the campaign continues.

Supporters will shoot for at least 225,000 signatures, in case some of them are invalidated. In Arizona, as in most states, only registered voters may sign an initiative petition. Not long ago, a similar petition in Maine was thrown out because some signatures were invalidated, and it took a court battle to make it stand.

Maine and Arizona will be part of about a dozen states with similar ballot initiatives in November.

Growing Support

According to J.P. Holyoak, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA),

“Voters want to have their say on whether Arizona should end marijuana prohibition…It’s appearing more and more likely that they are going to have that opportunity. We’re finding that most Arizonans agree marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.”

He’s right. A Behavior Research Center Poll of 2015 shows that 56 percent of Arizonans favor legalization. This poll mirrors national polls which show similar results.

Details Of The Petition

According to the CRMLA, the petition calls for the legalizing possession of up to an ounce. A civil offense and $300 fine would apply for possession of more than that, up to 2.5 ounces. Individuals could grow up to six plants in their own homes.

Marijuana would be sold in state-regulated and licensed stores, to anyone aged 21-and-over and would come with an additional 15 percent tax, to be used to support Arizona’s schools. This would bring in as much as $72 million a year into the state’s coffers.

The Opposition

Opposition to legalization falls along political party lines. Republicans and conservatives state that, adding one more vice, along with alcohol and tobacco use, is wrong and that we do not know all of the long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain.

State legislators have already approved medical marijuana use, however, and dispensaries are set up all over the state for that purpose.

Election Implications

As many as a dozen states may have legalization initiatives on their November ballots. Supporters of legalization tend to be liberal and to vote Democratic, and this could bring them out to the polls in record numbers. On that same ballot, of course, will be elections for state and federal candidates, as well as for the president, and the large turnout for legalization could impact all of those races.

And The Money

The current petition initiative in Arizona has been funded by the CRMLA, who has paid its signature gatherers from a pot of over $1 million, gathered primarily from those who currently own medical dispensaries and the national Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which is supporting initiatives in other states too.

Owners of the current medical dispensaries believe that, because they are already licensed and regulated, they will have a leg-up on getting the new licenses, should the initiative pass. This will leave only about one-third of the total number of dispensaries being proposed for newcomers.

As is shown by the numbers in other states, owners of recreational marijuana dispensaries have become quite wealthy quite quickly. Getting a license is a coveted prize, and entrepreneurs are already getting themselves ready to be in contention.

A Matter Of Time?

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in four states – Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Its medical use has been approved in many others, including Washington, D.C. With so many initiatives coming to state ballots in November, and the general public shift in favor of legalization, it may just be a matter of time.

In general, such initiatives tend to follow the same pattern – decriminalization of possession of small amounts, legalization of medical use, and, ultimately, legalization for recreation.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/GettyImages]