Could Arizona go legal in 2016? Supporters there think it will, and they’ve launched a new election campaign to make it happen.
Advocates with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the largest pro-marijuana group in the country, filed papers in late September to begin raising money for a push to legalize dope in the state.
It will be months until Arizonans know whether the issue will be on the 2016 ballot, but an early start and backing by the MPP are good signs.
The lobbying group will probably model the eventual ballot initiative after the measure that legalized weed in Colorado in 2012. That effort picked up 55 percent of the vote.
The MPP has also been involved in successful medical marijuana measures elsewhere and plans to push legalization in a growing list of states over the next few years.
Andrew Myers, who is working on the initiative, said supporters would attract a “diverse coalition” to write the ballot proposal. And they’re keeping a close eye on the legal weed program in Colorado to see what works and what doesn’t.
Arizona already has medical marijuana. The population is still relatively conservative there, but it’s changing rapidly and could soon turn the state liberal.
Some observers predict a nasty fight with tough opposition from law enforcement and from medical marijuana providers who fear the competition. But the experience in Colorado – and in Washington, which also legalized recreational pot in 2012 – suggests otherwise.
Police opposition in Colorado was relatively minimal, and though Arizona has a much stronger reputation for aggressive law enforcement, the state’s growing base of Latino voters is already changing that. Cops may fight the initiative, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop it.
Medical dispensaries have raised a fuss in other states considering legalization. But that hasn’t stopped any petitions from making it on the ballot or passing at the polls in other states. What’s more, many policymakers will likely view legal weed as a guaranteed moneymaker, as opposed to MMJ, which doesn’t generate tax revenue beyond the state’s retail sales tax.
Legal recreational cannabis, on the other hand, could pump tens of millions of dollars into state coffers.
Arizona has about 50,000 registered patients under the medical marijuana law, which was passed by voters in 2010. Patients must register with the state, obtain an ID card, and get physician recommendations to use pot.
Leaders of the MPP said they decided to hold off on a legalization campaign in 2014. They expect more voters will turn out in 2016 because it’s a presidential election year – and that means more young voters who overwhelmingly support legal grass.