While medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2010, the Smart and Safe Act, also known as Proposition 207, seeks to legalize recreational marijuana. It is included on the ballot in Arizona as an initiated state statute for the upcoming November election, where voters will decide its future.
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Back on the Ballot Since 2016
This marijuana legalization initiative was also on the ballot back in the 2016 election, and with conservationists placing numerous setbacks, it narrowly failed.
The main criticism the 2016 proposition faced was that it did not go far enough in allowing employers to prohibit use by employees.
Spokesperson Stacy Pearson for Proposition 207 said that this new bill is more informed by criticisms that might have caused doubt among votes and business owners back in 2016.
This year, the bill states that employers will be able to hold on to their rights to drug and alcohol-free workplaces.
This means that employers that were previously doing drug testing on workers can continue to do so under Proposition 207.
Bill Decriminalizes Recreational Use of Marijuana
If approved, the bill looks to decriminalize recreational use of marijuana, allowing adults 21 years-old or older to legally use and buy the product, with limited amounts allowed for possession – as much as an ounce of marijuana.
It would also lay the groundwork for the recreational marijuana industry in Arizona.
Cannabis Products Would Carry 16% Tax
The Arizona Department of Health Services would regulate all licensing for recreational storefronts and production facilities.
Every product would carry a 16% tax, just as alcohol and cigarettes do.
Revenue Would Benefit Public Services
This revenue would translate into more money for the state, mainly benefiting public safety and services like fire departments, community colleges and institutions like Arizona’s Teacher Academy.
However, one of the main arguments of opponents to the bill is that the medical marijuana industry already provides cannabis to those who need it for health-related issues.
250.000 people in Arizona Hold Medical Marijuana Cards
Opponents to Proposition 207 believe that medical marijuana operators would have an immediate monopoly on the distribution of the plan recreationally.
To this day, no less than 250,000 people in Arizona state hold medical marijuana cards.
The November election doesn’t just affect Arizona in the recreational marijuana front, but four other states as well.
Previous elections have set the tone for marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington back in 2012, followed by nine other states.
Turning a Profitable Industry Into a Legal one
While arguments might be strong among both parties, the reality of the matter is that turning an already exploding and incredibly profitable industry into a legal one is just a matter of passing this bill.
This would also mean that consumption and production of cannabis would become better regulated.
Changes Made to Proposition 207
Proposition 207 was recently refiled with the Secretary of State’s Office on September 29, after being reviewed by the Legislative Council and having made some changes.
Among these changes is allowing more people previously convicted of marijuana possession to have their records expunged – an estimated 200,000 people, with low-level felonies.
The ACLU says that the bill would also help reduce racial disparities in drug charges.
Proponents also argue that the Safe and Smart Act will bring important changes in criminal justice, as well as stipulating that at least 20% of recreational storefront licenses go to owners negatively impacted by marijuana laws.
26 New Licenses Aimed at Social Equity
In previous versions of the bill, marijuana licenses would have gone almost exclusively to the 130 licensed medical-marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. The 26 new licenses are aimed at “social equity”.
Polls Show Strong Voter Support
A new poll from Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network live-interview from September 26th – 30th, found that at least 45.6% of voters support Proposition 207, versus 34.2% opposing and 19% undecided, as reported by AZCentral.