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Arizona’s November 2018 Ballot – Legalizing Marijuana

Arizona citizens have the opportunity to initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment. Additionally, Arizona citizens have the power to repeal legislation that has been passed through veto referendum.

Initiated state statute: This is a new law that a state adopts through the ballot initiative process. Arizona is one of twenty-one states that allow its citizens to propose new statutes. In order to do this, the initiative petition needs 150,642 signatures (10 percent of votes cast for governor in the most recent election).

Initiated constitutional amendment: This amends the Arizona constitution. Arizona is one of eighteen states that have a provision for initiated constitutional amendments. Article 21 of the Arizona Constitution states that initiated amendments go on the ballot if the initiative petition is signed by 225,963 qualified voters (15 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the most recent election).

Veto referendum: Once a state legislature has passed, the bill may be repealed by the states citizens. If the repeal is signed by 75,321 qualified voters, 5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election, the bill does not go into effect when it otherwise should have. Instead the law is held in abeyance pending the outcome of a statewide vote.

Between 1996 and 2016, there has been a total of 111 measures that appeared on Arizona ballots. About 57 percent (63 of 111) of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 43 percent (48 of 111) were defeated.

This is an even-numbered year and thus citizens again have the opportunity to initiate legislation. There are three marijuana initiatives that may appear on the 2018 Arizona ballot if they collect the required number of signatures.

#1: Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2018)

The measure would legalize the possession, consumption, cultivation and sales for persons at least twenty-one years of age. It will decriminalize marijuana offenses and replace them with fines and misdemeanors; allow licensed businesses to resell marijuana and marijuana products with a sales tax on retail sales that will be allocated to education; place marijuana under the Department of Agriculture. The initiative would forbid local jurisdictions from passing laws designed to prohibit the operation of marijuana-related businesses. Prior marijuana violations would be provided post-conviction relief.

A similar initiative, Proposition 205, failed at the ballot box in 2016 by a 51.3 to 48.7 percent margin. A revised initiative was filed on March 7, 2017 by Safer Arizona. The chairman of Safer Arizona admitted that Proposition 205 was, “A very flawed law…I don’t believe Arizona voted down Prop. 205 because they didn’t want marijuana.” After some revisions including, “A higher ceiling for home grows, a capped general sales tax, and it would place regulation under the Department of Agriculture rather than creating a new department,” he is optimistic this initiative will not meet a similar fate. A total of 150,642 valid signatures are needed by July 5, 2018, in order to qualify this initiated statute for the November ballot.

#2: Arizona Medical Marijuana Expansion Initiative (2018)

The measure would expand the number of qualifying patient conditions to receive medical marijuana. The measure will reduce the application fee for a medical marijuana card to $10.00 and mandate that records signifying a medical condition for the use of marijuana be valid for 24 months. It will increase the number of medical marijuana dispensaries from one dispensary per ten pharmacies to four dispensaries per ten pharmacies. It would allow people who live more than one mile from a dispensary to grow their own medical marijuana. The measure will also authorize persons with out-of-state medical marijuana cards to purchase medical marijuana in Arizona.

The initiative was filed on November 17, 2016, by the Arizona Marijuana Patient Society. A total of 150,642 valid signatures are needed by July 5, 2018, in order to qualify this initiated statute for the November ballot.

#3: Arizona Marijuana Legalization and Regulations Ban Initiative (2018)

This constitutional amendment would completely legalize marijuana. The amendment would forbid the state government from recognizing marijuana abuse as a criminal problem.  Additionally, it would forbid taxing or regulating the use of marijuana. The amendment would forbid passing laws discriminating against people or entities who use marijuana. The amendment would forbid assisting other government entities in enforcing laws against marijuana. The amendment would pardon and clear the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana offenses. The state would be prohibited from extraditing persons charged with marijuana crimes to other states or countries.

The initiative was filed on March 22, 2017, by RAD Final 1. Although this initiative is a stretch, all it needs is total of 225,963 valid signatures by July 5, 2018, in order to qualify this initiated constitutional amendment for the November ballot.

It is important to be aware that until these initiatives are placed on the November 2018 ballot and passed, it is still illegal to use, possess, or sell marijuana for recreational purposes. While Arizona has joined the growing list of states that have legalized medical marijuana, there are still limitations that one must be mindful of.