By Associated Press
(AP) — Arizona voters will decide whether the state joins nearly a dozen others across the nation that have legalized recreational marijuana when they head to the polls on Nov. 3.
The measure known as Proposition 207 would let people 21 and older possess up to an ounce of marijuana or a smaller quantity of concentrates, allow for the sale of recreational marijuana at licensed dispensaries, and for residents to grow their own cannabis plants.
Prop 207, previously called the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, would impose a modest 16% excise tax on pot, on top of the standard sales tax that goes to state and local governments.
The proceeds from the excise tax, which the Legislature’s budget analysts estimate will bring in $166 million a year once the marijuana market matures, would go to community colleges, local police and fire agencies, local and state transportation projects and public health and criminal justice programs. Including state and local sales taxes, the analysis estimates $255 million a year in new revenue.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Chad Campbell, chairman of the committee backing the measure. “At the end of the day we’re going to mitigate the black market, we’re going to make the market safer and we’re going to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for programs that all Arizonans support – community colleges, roads, local public safety issues.”
Currently, people can be convicted of DUI if they have any level of marijuana “metabolites” in their system. Those chemicals can be detected as long as a month after someone uses, meaning that finding them doesn’t mean someone is impaired. Prop 207 would slightly revise the state’s marijuana DUI law.
“We just mirror current DUI laws in terms of impairment,” Campbell said. “Its really one of the strongest laws in the nation as far as DUI.”
Campbell also noted that Arizona is the last remaining state where the law allows felony charges for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana.
“That’s ludicrous – we’re so out of the touch with the rest of the country,” Campbell said.
People with past convictions for simple marijuana possession would be allowed to petition the courts to have the convictions expunged if Prop 207 passes.
“At the end of the day the opposition is just engaging in fearmongering, Campbell stated. “That’s all they’ve ever done. They misrepresent the data, they misrepresent facts, and quite frankly they’re just trying to scare people with their outrageous lies and claims.”
Eleven states have legalized marijuana, including California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Colorado. In addition to Arizona, voters in South Dakota, New Jersey and Montana will see measures on legalizing recreational marijuana on their November ballot.
Arizona voters narrowly rejected a previous legalization effort in 2016. If Prop 207 passes on Nov 3, marijuana will become legal when the election results are certified about a month after the election. Retail cannabis sales could start in April 2021.