Arizona raises bar on voter initiatives

 

Last update: May 15, 2017

 

The Arizona Legislature’s 2017 legislative session started at least somewhat promising, with the introduction of a bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Cardenas. His marijuana policy reform bill, HB 2003, would have ended marijuana prohibition for adults and established important regulations to control the production and sale of marijuana. Unfortunately, the bill did not advance this year.

Instead, lawmakers spent their time considering ways to make it harder for voters to adopt their own laws through the voter initiative process. Some of the proposals were worse than others. The bill that was signed into law, HB 2404, makes it harder for voter initiatives to appear on the ballot by limiting how signature gathering workers can be paid. It also makes it easier for individuals to bring legal actions that can further frustrate the voter initiative process.

That said, HB 2404 wasn’t the worst option the state could have chosen, and the initiative process remains largely intact. It is still possible to bring a legalization ballot initiative similar to the one proposed in 2016 — Prop. 205, which was narrowly defeated in the face of a well-funded opposition that relied on misinformation about the results of legalization in Colorado.

 


Arizona Legislature’s attempts to try to interfere with the will of the voters defeated

 

Almost 90,000 patients are currently registered in Arizona’s medical marijuana program, and 31 new dispensaries were just licensed by the Department of Health Services in October 2016. Patients will soon be able to obtain their medicine from more than 120 dispensaries. Click here to learn more about the program.

Unfortunately, some members of the Arizona Legislature oppose this progress and continue trying to attack Prop. 203. Thankfully, these efforts were defeated last year. Bills were introduced that would have: limited access to medical marijuana by restricting the types of medical professionals who could recommend it (HB 2019); banned the use of medical marijuana by pregnant women (HB 206); and added other unnecessary restrictions (HB 2404 and HB 2405). Thankfully, several of these bills were withdrawn or defeated, and HB 206 was amended so that it simply requires dispensaries to post a sign with a specified warning to pregnant women. We should expect additional attempts to harm the program in 2017.

Some of these bills were defeated thanks to the Voter Protection Act (VPA), which states that changes to voter initiatives must “further the purpose” of the original law and must be passed by a super-majority vote of three-quarters of the legislature. Several attempts were made to gut the VPA, two of which, HCR 2023 and HCR 2043, passed the House. Thankfully, both were defeated in the Senate last year.


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