Marijuana Activists Fighting Legalization in Arizona
Like many states, Arizona has its share of marijuana activists fighting for their vision on legalization. Unfortunately, the activists who did not succeed in putting their ideas on the ballot are now actively working to subvert the activists who did succeed.
The story begins with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which has successfully placed four legalization initiatives on this November’s ballot, including their Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona (AZ-CRMLA). During the early campaign deliberations there were objections from the existing medical marijuana industry that MPP’s new legalization scheme would put them at a disadvantage.
Arizona dispensary owners threatened to go forward with their own legalization plan until negotiations with MPP led to a legalization plan that industry leaders and national funders could work with. Specifically, AZ-CRMLA maintained a limited number of commercial licenses that would be given first to the existing medical marijuana growers, processors, and retailers.
But that led to grassroots activists crying “foul” about the collusion of big money players leaving out the little guy. Led by an activist named Jason Medar, they formed a group called Arizonans for Mindful Regulation (AZFMR) and embarked on their own legalization initiative campaign.
As grassroots campaigns tend to go, AZFMR was long on activists and emotion and short on signatures and cash. MPP’s AZ-CRMLA made the ballot and Medar’s AZFMR did not. But that’s not stopping Medar and the folks behind AZFMR. Now Medar has formed Marijuana Consumers Against Fake Marijuana Legalization (MCAFML), a group openly opposed to AZ-CRMLA along with the police and sheriffs, drug rehabs and testers, the Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Party, and numerous other prohibitionists.
“The simple realization is that it takes substantial dollars to run a successful campaign,” remarked J.P. Holyoak, campaign manager of AZ-CRMLA on the demise of AZFMR last June, noting it would be “silly” and “petty” for cannabis consumers to vote against their own legalization. In August, AZ-CRMLA qualified for the ballot as Proposition 205. Holyoak then told Arizonans that “Prop 205 would establish a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.”
Prop 205 is fairly similar to the other four legalization initiatives proposed this year. Adults 21 and older could possess up to an ounce of flower (including up to 5 grams of concentrate). Amounts between 1 and 2.5 ounces are decriminalized and earn just a $300 fine. Adults may cultivate 6 cannabis plants each, with a limit of 12 per household, and possess all the resulting harvest from those plants at the home.
The cultivation allowances are huge news for Arizona’s medical marijuana patients, who have been banned from home-growing cannabis plants within 25 miles of a dispensary. Also included in Prop 205 are protections for child custody and organ transplants for all marijuana consumers. There’s even a prohibition on punishing adults for the detection of marijuana metabolites in their body, which would seem to eliminate Arizona’s per se DUID law.
As mentioned, commercial licenses would be opened up in the first three months only to existing medical marijuana operators. There will be just one agency regulating all marijuana in Arizona. License application fees are $5,000 and license fees run between $10,000 – $30,000. Marijuana would be subject to a 15 percent point-of-sale excise tax at the retailers, which would be limited to one for every ten liquor stores (currently a limit of 149 pot shops). Localities could ban licensees by ordinance, but they can’t stop existing medical marijuana licensees from getting recreational licenses. There’s even allowances for the creation of pot lounges after 2020.