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Arizona Lawmakers Fail To Put Cannabis Legalization On Ballot

A bipartisan bill to put recreational marijuana on Arizona's November ballot has died in the statehouse.

One of the bill's primary sponsors, Representative Todd Clodfelter (R), thinks the Arizona legislature is only making things harder for themselves by not dealing with the issue now before Arizona residents repeal cannabis prohibition through a ballot initiative.

"It's not so much my concept of legalization is my preference but it's a common sense thing to do," Rep. Clodfelter told KVOA. "If we don't legalize it through the legislature, we have limited our ability to manage the outcome if it comes through a citizens initiative." 

But politicians don't have the courage to pursue recreational cannabis legalization right now, according to Moe Asnani - owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in Tucson.

"It could be a serious solution to the opioid epidemic," Asnani said. "Again, it seems to be a bridge too far for [Governor Doug] Ducey and I think that's where the political courage comes into play."

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is largely opposed to any kind of marijuana legalization.

Clodfelter plans to present another bill next year. In the meantime, he plans to hold study sessions with all sides of the debate to build consensus around the bill, which he sees as a massive boon for Arizona's economy.

"Lawful adults purchase the product and come back to Arizona and use the product anyway," he said. "The dollars we're losing to California, Colorado and Nevada could stay in Arizona." 

But next year might be too late for lawmakers to get ahead of the curve. The legalization group Safer Arizona is working on getting a cannabis ballot initiative ready for the 2018 by-elections this fall. In 2016, a similar initiative failed by only a slim margin, so if Safer Arizona can muster support from another 4 percent of voters, prohibition's days in Arizona will be numbered.


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