No gains (or losses) in 2015 legislative session
Last update: May 19, 2015
This year’s legislative session has come to an end, and while it is unfortunate that the Arizona Legislature did not take the opportunity to improve marijuana-related laws, neither did it cause significant harm. Two bills sponsored by Rep. Mark Cardenas — one that would have decriminalized marijuana by removing criminal penalties, the other that would have allowed adults to use, grow, and safely purchase marijuana — did not advance.
Fortunately, a terrible DUI bill that would have made criminals out of drivers who are not impaired also died. Rep. Sonny Borrelli’s bill, HB 2273, would have allowed courts to consider the presence of a metabolized form of THC, which was excluded from consideration in DUI cases by the Arizona Supreme Court. His misguided bill would have added consideration of the metabolized form of THC back into the DUI laws — ensuring that people who are not impaired would be found guilty of DUI. Fortunately the bill did not pass. Both the Arizona Supreme Court and researchers for the federal government say metabolized THC has nothing to do with impairment.
2015 Arizona ballot initiative
MPP, through our political campaign committee, is working to give Arizona voters the opportunity next year to vote on a ballot initiative that would tax and regulate marijuana. We have formed the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, which has filed a ballot initiative with the Arizona Secretary of State. In order to place the initiative on the 2016 ballot, the campaign must now collect over 150,000 signatures from Arizona voters. The initiative would establish a sensible, tax-and-regulate system for retail sales of marijuana to adults in Arizona. Visit the campaign website to read a summary of the initiative. You can find the full version here.
Learn about Arizona’s marijuana laws and past efforts to improve them
Arizona has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. Unlike most states, the criminal penalty for possession of just one ounce of marijuana can be a felony that carries a potential penalty of 18 months in jail and a $150,000 fine. A 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that over 55% of drug arrests or citations in Arizona are for marijuana possession and that blacks are 2.4 times more likely to be arrested or cited for marijuana possession than whites despite similar rates of use.
Polls gauging support for replacing marijuana prohibition with regulations in Arizona tend to show majority support. In a May 2013 poll, 56% of Arizonans supported legalization. A January poll showed 51% opposed, while a poll in February showed the reverse, with 51% in favor of legalization.
Marijuana’s status as a criminal offense is a distraction for law enforcement and needs to change. In 2012, over 90% of all marijuana busts were for possession, yet during the same year, 92% of all reported burglaries, 74% of all reported rapes, and over 90% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved. It’s time law enforcement stop wasting time going after people who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol!
Medical marijuana in Arizona
In 2010, Arizona voters approved Prop. 203, an MPP-drafted and funded initiative to allow the medical use of marijuana. To learn about the program, visit the Department of Health Services’ medical marijuana webpage.
The state’s medical marijuana program recently improved with the addition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions. On July 9, 2014, the Arizona Department of Health Services agreed to grant access for victims of PTSD, making Arizona the 10th state to do so. According to previous reports, the department began accepting applications for those suffering from PTSD on January 1 of this year.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Arizona, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service, if you haven’t done so already.