The citizen-led cannabis legalization activist group Safer Arizona has begun a petition drive that would place a legalization measure on the 2018 ballot, four months after the organization’s initiative came up just short of passage in the 2016 election.
Safer Arizona and the new effort
The new petition drives seeks to place on the ballot a measure – titled the Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Act – that would fundamentally alter cannabis policy in the Grand Canyon state.
Among the most sweeping changes would be a complete repeal of all criminal penalties associated with cannabis prohibition, including those related to possession, use, and consumption, and would replace all the rest with a series of fines.
Those looking to cultivate cannabis for their own purposes would be allowed to grow and possess up to 48 plants before being required to be licensed by the state. It states that a tax on cannabis and cannabis products would be levied upon retailers that is similar to that which is placed upon food by grocery stores.
Crucially, the measure would also provide post-conviction relief to those who have been convicted of cannabis-related offenses in the past, offering hope to those who have suffered on account of the wrong-headed War on Drugs.
The organization has until July 1, 2018, to collect the necessary 152,000 signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
The push is being engineered by Iraq War veteran David Wisniewski.
Coming up short
The effort comes on the heels of a 2016 ballot initiative, Prop. 205, that came up just short of passage on Election Day.
The measure was the only cannabis-related initiative to not be met with passage last year, and went down to defeat by a slim 5-point margin, 52 percent to 47 percent.
Prop. 205 would not have gone nearly as far as the measure currently being pushed by Safer Arizona. The initiative would have allowed individuals aged 21 and over to have grown up to 6 cannabis plants and would have placed a 15 percent sales tax on all retail sales of cannabis.
The effort was met with among the stiffest opposition to a legalization effort in the country: The group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP) – which poured $5.6 million into fighting its home state initiative, more than all other states combined – argued that the language used in the measure was “fraudulent and misleading.”
Interestingly, one of the opponents of Prop. 205 was none other than Safer Arizona’s David Wisniewski. He argued that allowing the state’s existing dispensaries to have the first crack at running commercial retail stores would have led to an unfair dynamic for the smaller or yet-to-be-created businesses.
Wisniewski stated in a recent interview that the current system is failing the state’s consumers.
This is what people are getting at when they go for cannabis legalization… Everything that has passed so far has been investor driven and doesn’t take on the whole problem.