Sunday, March 26, 2023

Arizona Petition To Legalize Cannabis Falls Short

The Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative was filed by Safer Arizona on March 7, 2017, giving the supporters of the initiative well over a year to collect 150,642 valid signatures by July 5, 2018. That number is equal to ten percent of the votes cast for the office of governor in the most recent election and proved more difficult to achieve than projected.

The petition aimed to legalize the consumption and possession of cannabis for those 21 and over. It would have also allowed for growing up to 48 psychoactive plants and prohibit local jurisdictions from tamping down on cannabis businesses. As far as petitions for pot go, this one was ambitious, though the signature gatherers were only able to amass around 75,000 John Henry’s before the state’s deadline.

David Wisniewski is the chairman of Safer Arizona and the man behind the petition. He told Capitol Media Services that he suspected that with financial contributions from those who might be interested in legal cannabis, like, ahem, medical marijuana dispensary owners, the petition may have made it, but he also implied that said dispensary owners feared the loss of their monopoly on the market and thus didn’t contribute.

Often times, initiatives are supported by large reform groups like NORML or Marijuana Policy Project, by venture capitalists or by those who stand to gain from the expanded market or to see social changes they fight for come to fruition. Wisniewski held fast though, saying that any upcoming initiative would have to be supported financially by the dispensaries.

Getting a measure on the ballot is no small task, from organizing to raising the capital to the initial most important part, getting feet on the ground to gather signatures. And the 150,000+ that Arizona “needs” isn’t near the number that must be collected. All stacks of signature sheets are sampled for fraud and inaccuracies and many people unwittingly sign a petition who aren’t actually registered to vote or are otherwise not in the system. These gaps have to be accounted for and the more signatures an initiative gets, the better.

Even though the petition had great legislative parts in it, like retroactive conviction relief for cannabis offense violations and marijuana taxes that would have been allocated toward education, it was apparently not the right fit for the people of Arizona right now. You can read its full text here.



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