As voters decide on marijuana legalization in two states and the nation’s capitol tomorrow, advocates draw new battle lines for the 2016 election cycle. Many states have the popular will for legalization, but it takes strong organization and financial backing that push legalization through. The group behind legalization in Colorado indicates that Arizona is the next state to receive a push.
The Marijuana Policy Project posted an update on their blog on Thursday stating that they have filed paperwork to “form a committee to begin raising funds for a 2016 citizens’ initiative to make the adult use of marijuana legal.” The announcement follows an article in the Arizona Capitol Times quoting MPP Communications Director, Mason Tvert. He revealed that the group will be using the same strategy and similar terms as Amendment 64 in Colorado.
“It appears most Arizona voters are ready to adopt a more sensible policy,” Tvert told the paper.
A February poll conducted by Behavioral Research Center showed that Arizonians are ready for a change with 51 percent saying they think the sale of marijuana should be made legal in the state. It also revealed that most voters have an opinion on the issue, with only 8 percent saying they are undecided. Prohibitionist groups are likewise making themselves heard in representing the 41 percent who oppose legalization.
The Arizona County Attorney & Sheriffs Association issued a resolution opposing any marijuana legalization efforts.
It’s resolution begins: “Whereas we are committed to the success and positive future of our youth … ” It contains the usual claims about marijuana being bad for children, though it doesn’t explain what relevance that has on legalizing use for adults. Other arguments mentioned include the vague health risks of marijuana, the blight of impaired driving and safety in the workplace. The resolution lists MATFORCE, a group concerned with substance abuse, as its primary sponsor.
State Representative Ethan Orr (R) argues that his colleagues should handle legalization in the Arizona legislature, rather than relying on the ballot box. He told Capitol Media Services earlier this month that he wants to avoid a ballot initiative that gives lawmakers less control. Orr supports a Colorado-style approach, but wants legislators to create the terms. MPP provided a tepid response to Orr’s goals.
“While we are not yet familiar with the details of Rep. Orr’s bill, we would likely support any well-written proposal to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol,” Tvert said in a blog response. The group, however, will continue its ballot initiative efforts.
Arizona voters approved Proposition 203 creating a medical marijuana system in 2010. That initiative was also drafted and funded by MPP.
Both states with legalization, as well as the current contenders, have required ballot initiatives, often over the objections of state politicians. Until the federal laws are changed, this seems likely to continue. With experienced groups running legalization campaigns, however, the future looks bright.