It looks increasingly likely that Arizona voters will have their say on cannabis legalization in the state after marijuana reform activists submitted almost double the required number of signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Smart and Safe Arizona handed in more than 420,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office just before the deadline for submissions. State rules stipulate that 237,645 valid signatures from registered voters are required in order to prompt a constitutional amendment through a ballot initiative.
Back in April, Smart and Safe Arizona joined forces with three separate petitioning campaigns to seek permission from the state’s Supreme Court for electronic signature gathering to comply with physical distancing requirements. The state’s top court rejected the measure, but clearly the campaign is still in a strong position to make the ballot, subject to verification of the collected signatures.
“Arizonans are ready to legalize cannabis and this is the right policy for our state,” said Arizona Dispensary Association President Steve White in a press release. “New jobs and revenue are even more critical, today, than when we embarked on this campaign last year.”
The proposed legalization measure for the ballot would allow for marijuana sales from licensed retailers to adults 21 and older. Possession would be limited to an ounce of cannabis, while cultivation of up to six plants for personal consumption would be permitted.
Smart and Safe Arizona also included social equity and restorative justice provisions within the measure to help undo some of the harms of marijuana prohibition and give certain priorities within the new industry to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. These include allowing individuals to petition the courts for expungements of prior cannabis convictions and the establishment of a social equity program to aid minority ownership of marijuana businesses.
Sales of marijuana would be taxed at 16 percent with revenues allocated towards the establishment of a legal industry as well as investing in public infrastructure, justice initiatives, community colleges and funding services such as the police and firefighters.
Regulation of the legal cannabis industry would fall on the Department of Health who would issue marijuana business licenses and largely determine the future direction of the program, such as whether to allow for home deliveries.
Arizona voters narrowly rejected calls to legalize cannabis in the 2016 ballot, but recent polling now suggests comfortable majority support for marijuana legalization.
Arizona now joins Montana and Nebraska as the latest states which look set to have a marijuana legalization question on the November ballot in spite of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent stay-at-home guidance which hampered efforts in a number of states, such as Missouri. A cannabis legalization question is already confirmed for the ballots in New Jersey and South Dakota. Voters in South Dakota will also decide on whether to legalize medical marijuana, as will Mississippi.