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Arizona Emerges As Fierce Battleground For Marijuana Legalization

The prospect of legal marijuana in Arizona has drawn passion from advocates, opponents, and investors alike.

Just as quickly as support arose for legal recreational marijuana in Arizona, so too did opposition. The advocacy group Smart & Safe Arizona submitted more than 420,000 signatures earlier this month to put cannabis legalization on the ballot. The measure is currently in review, but only 237,645 valid signature are required to qualify.

An Arizona Public Opinion Pulse (AZPOP) poll released this week found that 62% of voters favor legal marijuana. The poll, which surveys about 600 likely Arizona voters each month, reports that support is divided evenly among urban, suburban, and rural voters. Only 32% of respondents oppose legalizing cannabis.

This represent a significant increase from polling data released in December 2019. An AZPOP poll at the time found 52% supported the initiative and 42% were against it.

“Four years ago, marijuana legalization nearly came to fruition,” said Mike Noble, Chief of Research at OH Predictive Insights. “And less than four months before Election Day, Arizona is on the cusp of allowing the adults to use recreational pot.”

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But opponents of the measure have filed a lawsuit that would block legal cannabis from reaching the ballot, the Arizona Republic reports. Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, the group behind the lawsuit, argued the ballot measure does not provide enough credible information to voters. A 100-word summary ran alongside the petition signed by Arizonans, but did not explain details like how whether those under the age of 21 would be charged with marijuana possession with a felony, as they are today.

The initiative submitted for the ballot sets the legal age of cannabis possession at 21 and suggests underage possession become a civil penalty.

Arizona Emerges As Fierce Battleground For Marijuana Legalization
Photo by Cash Vickers via Unsplash

These omissions and statements misled voters who signed the petition about what the initiative would do,” said Lisa James, chairwoman of Arizonans for Health and Public Safety.

Smart & Safe Arizona said they weren’t concerned with the lawsuit. The group has raised a significant amount of money in a short amount of time — $600,000 in the last quarter alone. The Center for Arizona Policy, a socially conservative lobby group that largely funds the opposition group, has given Arizonans for Health and Public Safety $100,000 this year.

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The Smart & Safe Arizona group has also received donations and support from the cannabis industry. Marijuana Business Daily reports the possibility of legal recreational marijuana has caused a rush of investor interest in Arizona. One attorney said investors in-state and out-of-state “are trying to gobble up any licenses they can.”

Arizona already boasts one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the country. Projected 2020 sales in the state are expected to range between $770 million to $910 million.

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