Attempts to put legal weed on the ballot in Arizona this year have apparently failed. Instead, voters will decide this issue in 2016.
A small group of marijuana activists had pushed a ballot initiative in recent months to legalize weed in the state. But they’ve fallen far short of the signatures needed to put the issue before voters in November, gathering just 10,000 of the 259,200 they needed.
Supporters have until July 3 to collect signatures, but their effort never attracted major funding, and it was clear to many from the start that their odds were long.
Arizona is one of several states considering legalization between 2014 and 2016. Washington State and Colorado both voted to legalize in the 2012 election, and the first retail pot shops opened in Colorado Jan. 1. Shops should open in Washington in the spring.
In the wake of those votes and the success of the programs in each state, other states may follow suit. California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Rhode Island and Maine are among the most likely candidates for legal weed in the next three years.
Polls in most of those places show voters strongly support legal pot. And they all already have medical marijuana, making it easier for voters to swallow a step up to legal pot.
The same is true of Arizona. Voters there narrowly approved MMJ in 2010 by passing Propositiion 203. There are now about 80 dispensaries across the state, and it’s one of the top five medical marijuana markets in the country. About 40,000 patients use the system.
Arizona is a red state that voted heavily for Mitt Romney in 2012, not necessarily the most likely target for legalization. But it has a strong libertarian streak, and politics there are moving toward the middle. The presence of medicinal cannabis also makes it easier for voters to accept recreational pot.
Now that the 2014 effort looks doomed, activists will turn their sights to 2016. A campaign for that year’s election is already underway, led by the nation’s largest marijuana policy group.
The Marijuana Policy Project is pushing a ballot proposal modeled after the legal cannabis system in Colorado. It’s part of a larger, ambitious plan to legalize 10 states by 2017.
“We’re feeling very good about what we can accomplish,” Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in September.
The group helped pass Proposition 2013 in 2010. Since that time, support for MMJ and recreational pot have grown substantially, with recent polls showing most Arizonans want to legalize.