Medical marijuana is already legal in Arizona, but two bills have been introduced for consideration in the 2015 legislative session that could bring further reform.
House Bill 2007 would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults, allow retail sales of marijuana at state-licensed retail stores, and allow personal cultivation of up to five untaxed plants.
“Everyone has a friend who knows how to get marijuana,” said state Rep. Cardenas, the bill’s sponsor. “The money we’ve spent on the war on drugs has kind of gone into a black hole.” Cardenas said his bill will not increase access to marijuana in Arizona because it already isn’t difficult to find.
Instead, Cardenas proposes taxing and regulating marijuana sales throughout Arizona, allowing the state to generate new revenue while taking marijuana sales away from the black market.
The bill is likely to be assigned to the House Judiciary Committee that is chaired by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert), an opponent to marijuana legalization. Rep. Farnsworth would be responsible for scheduling the House Bill 2007 for a hearing in order for the proposal to receive any consideration.
While Cardenas would prefer House Bill 2007 to pass, he already has a backup plan ready, in the form of House Bill 2006, which would decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Instead of current penalties, which usually come as a felony charge and a year prison sentence, offenders would receive a civil penalty and fine of up to $100. There’d be no criminal record or conviction, similar to a traffic violation.
Marijuana legalization’s biggest adversary in Arizona is probably Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who repeatedly challenges the state’s 2010 voter-approved medical marijuana act.
If marijuana legalization efforts in Arizona fail this year (legislative session begin on January 12), efforts are already underway to put a binding initiative on the November 2016 ballot, putting the decision of marijuana legalization out of the hands of state lawmakers and into the hands of Arizona voters.