2016 Arizona ballot initiative
Last update: September 15, 2015
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, sponsored by Marijuana Policy Project, has filed a ballot initiative with the Arizona Secretary of State. In order to place the initiative on the 2016 ballot, the campaign needs more than 230,000 signatures from Arizona voters; the campaign has collected over 70,000 signatures already. 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.
No gains or losses in 2015 legislative session
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.
Learn about Arizona’s marijuana laws and past efforts to improve them
Arizona has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country, but it does have a robust medical marijuana program. 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.
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.
In one bright area, in 2010, Arizona voters approved Prop. 203, an MPP-drafted and funded initiative to allow the medical use of marijuana. More than 75,000 patients are currently registered and are able to obtain their medicine from more than 90 dispensaries. The program recently expanded with the addition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions. To learn about the program, visit the Department of Health Services’ medical marijuana webpage.
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.