Marijuana Legalization Falls Short In Arizona

The only loss of the 2016 marijuana ballot initiatives is in. Arizona's Proposition 205 - which would have legalized recreational cannabis in the Grand Canyon State - was defeated by a narrow margin of about 80,000 votes according to Politico. That means Arizona has lost its chance to become the 9th state to legalize recreational cannabis, after Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Massachusetts, Nevada, Maine and California.

Although disappointing, the result isn't exactly a surprise. Polls consistently showed support for the initiative hovering below 50 percent.

And when discussing this year's crop of initiatives, Amanda Reiman - the Drug Policy Alliance's marijuana law and policy expert - pegged Arizona as this year's longshot. But the defeat isn't a bad thing, she said.

"Failure is progress," she told Civilized. "As more states legalize, more will take risks with ballot measures that might not make it."

So the fact that a conservative state like Arizona considered legalization at all is a huge win. And the fact that 47 percent of actual voters supported it means that the issue will certainly come up again. 

Here's what Proposition 205 would have done in Arizona.

Proposition 205 

If Prop 205 had passed, the new law would have allowed adults 21 or older to buy and possess up to one ounce of cannabis (or up to 5 grams of concentrates like hash) for private consumption. Smoking or vaping in public would've remained illegal. As in Colorado, residents would have been allowed to grow up to six plants at home as long as they're locked in an enclosed area like a closet or greenhouse.

Recreational marijuana sales would've been charged a 15 percent sales tax, which is comparable to the rates charged in other legal states.

Sales would've been restricted to retailers licensed by a new branch of state government: the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control (DMLC). The new department would've included a law enforcement unit to inspect businesses involved in the industry, address complaints and ensure that regulations are being followed.

One thing that might have sunk Prop 205 is the restrictive cap on the number of retail marijuana stores. The cap on licenses would've been set at 10 percent of the total number of licensed liquor stores in the state. So if Arizona has 1,000 liquor stores, the number of marijuana retailers would be capped at 100 until 2021.

And those sorts of restrictions might have cost votes from within the ranks of cannabis reformers. A grassroots group in Arizona that failed to get their legalization initiative on the November ballot actually campaigned against Prop 205 because they felt its regulations are too strict.

But Morgan Fox - Communications Manager for the Marijuana Policy Project - argues that those regulations were necessary to appeal to moderate voters.

"What we’re trying to do is appeal to the general populace and put things on the ballot that are going to address everybody’s concerns and move forward," he told Civilized. "The smart move is to back the play that's going to stop people from getting arrested, then work on making improvements to the law incrementally."


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