Arizona voters will likely get the chance to decide whether they want to legalize marijuana, after activists turned in more than enough signatures to qualify the question for the November ballot.
Backers of a public initiative to legalize the drug for recreation handed state elections officials nearly 260,000 voter signatures in June. The office of the Arizona secretary of state requires at least 150,000 valid signatures before a constitutional amendment may appear on the statewide ballot.
The signatures were delivered June 30 by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), the main group behind the legalization push. The secretary of state’s office is expected to announce by late August whether the initiative officially qualifies to go before voters Nov. 8.
Many of the signatures will inevitably be invalidated, but the campaign collected enough to provide a buffer. Unless state Republican officials try to block the petition for political reasons, it will probably make the ballot.
Numerous states seeking to legalize this year
Arizona is one of nine states where voters will likely decide whether they want to make cannabis legal. Four states have already done so – Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska – as has the District of Columbia.
Neighboring Nevada and California face similar votes on Election Day. Legalization is already on the Nevada ballot, and it’s almost there in the Golden State. If it passes in these states as well as Arizona, roughly a quarter of Americans would live in places where pot is legal.
“We are very encouraged by the strong levels of support and enthusiasm we found among voters during the petition drive,” said CRMLA Chairman J.P. Holyoak. “Arizonans are ready to end the antiquated policy of marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. We look forward to continuing the public conversation about the initiative, and we think most will agree it is a sensible step forward for our state.”
The initiative would allow adults 21 and over to buy, possess, and use small amounts of marijuana while creating and regulating a legal cannabis industry to grow and sell the drug. The proposed law would impose a 15 percent sales tax on retail sales, money that would pay for public school programs.
Generating huge tax revenue
Legalization could bring Arizona and its public projects a big windfall: The state’s Joint Legislative Committee estimated in early July that legal pot sales would generate roughly $82 million in tax revenue in the first year. More than $55 million of that money would go toward all-day kindergarten programs and existing K-12 schools.
“Our schools could certainly benefit from tens of millions of dollars in new revenue each year,” said Kathy Inman, executive director of a parents’ group concerned with the consequences of anti-marijuana laws. “The money for education is a huge bonus, but the real value of this initiative is in ending the many harms associated with prohibition. I support regulating marijuana because it will make Arizona a safer place for my daughter and my granddaughter. Marijuana should be produced and sold in tightly regulated businesses, not in a dangerous underground market.”
To read full campaign details from the CRMLA, visit their site at www.regulatemarijuanainarizona.org/
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