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Here's How Arizona Advocates Plan to Legalize Cannabis in 2020

Advocates in Arizona say they are just weeks away from debuting a new cannabis legalization ballot initiative.

Come June, residents of the Grand Canyon State will be able to voice their support for putting recreational marijuana legalization on the state's 2020 ballot through a petition drive that's being spearheaded by Smart and Safe Arizona. Cannabis advocates need to secure 237,645 signatures from local voters by July 2, 2020 in order to get the cannabis question on the 2020 ballot.

The new legalization campaign is a followup to a ballot drive that Smart and Safe Arizona launched in 2016. Back then, the petition made the ballot but lost the vote by a mere three percent on Election Day.

This time around, Smart and Safe Arizona believes they have a much better chance, thanks to the gains made by the legalization movement in states like California, Massachusetts and Michigan, where recreational marijuana is now legal. 

"The last four or five years of this have been light years in terms of industry development and maturity," Stacy Pearson—a political consultant involved with the campaign's leadership team—told the Arizona Mirror. "So, this isn't an experiment anymore....There are things that have worked that can be replicated and things that haven’t worked in other states that can be avoided. It's a smarter, better researched, more mature industry and campaign."

However, the campaign will also be up against the same opposition groups it faced back in 2016. The opposition's biggest financial backer in 2016 was Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R), who raised $5 million of the opposition's $6.4 million budget himself. And he'll be back to fight against legalization this time around, too.

"The governor's position on this issue is clear," said Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak. "There will be plenty of time for campaigns next year. We'll review anything that makes the ballot at the appropriate time."

While Smart and Safe Arizona are still finalizing the language for their ballot initiative, Pearson says they hope to reveal the details within a month. And if everything goes well, 2020 could be the year that legal weed finally comes to Arizona.


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