We are less than a week away from the biggest month in the history of marijuana legislation in the United States. By the end of November, we could well be looking at a new era of cannabis culture in North America, with the potential to influence governmental policies all over the world. Nine states will be voting to legalize either recreational or medical cannabis – the biggest news being that there may soon be NINE states you can head to and smoke as much pot as you like, without breaking a single law. And if you’re lucky enough to live there, you’ll even be able to grow your own at home…all 100%.
Then again, the vote hasn’t been taken yet and certain states are treading something of a knife’s edge with regard to the expected result. One of the states putting weed to a public vote this November is Arizona, so what can we expect to see of this one come the end of the year?
A Long Time Coming
Well, as far as Arizona goes, it’s pretty fair to say that it took way longer than it should have for medical marijuana to be legalized in the first place. It was back in 2010 when the state finally began allowing authorised patients to access and use medical cannabis, though Proposition 203 passed with a terrifyingly close 50.13% majority. What’s more, this was no less than the FOURTH time medical cannabis had been put to a public vote, suggesting that for quite some time, the people of Arizona didn’t even want medical pot to be made available in their state.
Slim margin or not, medical cannabis was legalized and has since been very much embraced by the good people of Arizona. Across the state, there are now more than 120 dispensaries up and running, bringing important and life-improving relief to thousands with varies health conditions and diseases. That being said, recreational cannabis is a very different subject to medicinal cannabis, so given the initially frosty reception for the medicinal stuff, you’d expect Arizonians to be sceptical about legalizing recreational pot.
But you’d be wrong, as all indications to date suggest that the public is well and truly behind the proposed legalization of recreational cannabis. Or at least, enough to win by a decent enough majority.
Known as the Arizona Marijuana Legalization, the bill (if passed) will allow residents of and visitors to Arizona to purchase and consume recreational cannabis legally, possessing up to one ounce at any one time. In addition, those living in the state will be able to grow a maximum of six cannabis plants at home for personal use. Five grams of marijuana concentrates will also be allowed for personal use. As with the other US states looking to legalize pot, it would be regulated by a state-licensing agency and subject to standard taxation of 8% on all cannabis sales. As for visitors to Arizona, it won’t be quite as easy as may be expected, given that smoking cannabis in public places will remain illegal.
Mirroring the actions of many spanning the states putting weed to a public vote, a group by the name of ‘Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy’ had tried to get the whole thing cancelled and scrapped by taking the matter to the supreme court. Mercifully, it was determined by the judge that there was no reasonable grounding for the lawsuit, which saw the legal challenge being tossed out of court before gaining any real traction.
Despite the fact that the legalization of cannabis would see tens of millions of dollars pumped into the state’s most important public causes, opposition from certain campaign groups continues to prove tenacious to say the least. Members of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol insist that giving the public the right to abolish prohibition of cannabis represents both the sensible and democratic thing to do.
“Voters will get the opportunity that they requested — more than 258,000 people signed a petition to put this before the voters,” said Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesperson, Barrett Marson.
“The Supreme Court agreed voters should have the final say on whether adults should have the right to legally purchase marijuana.”
As for those on the other side of the argument – members of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy – they’ve made it clear that failing to have the vote scrapped entirely will not stop them trying to block the legalization of cannabis.
“Our goal now is to make sure that every Arizonan enters the voting booth in November with a full understanding of both the intended and the unintended impacts of the 20 pages of new laws in Prop 205,” said Sheila Polk, a Yavapai County Attorney.
“We hope all citizens will read the lengthy legalese before voting and will learn how devastating Proposition 205 would be to our state if passed.”
Devastating? Of course…Colorado and Washington have both descended into anarchy since recreational cannabis was legalized. And as for the tens of millions of dollars that would be collected in taxation every few months…well, who cares about schools, community projects, charities and son on?
Devastating…pull the other one.
Too Close to Call?
It’s probably fair to say that supporters of the cannabis legalization bill will probably be right on the edges of their proverbial seats, right up until the day of the vote. The reason being that when pulling together the results of the polls carried out so far, it all paints a contradictory and certainly close-run picture. Too close to call, in fact.
Back in July, a sizeable poll found that while 52.5% of the state’s citizens intended to vote against the bill, just 39% wanted to see it enacted. Even after factoring the 10% that were undecided, this would have meant a no-go for the bill. More recently, a new poll suggests that around 50% now intend to support the bill, 40% remain opposed and 10% haven’t made their minds up yet. In both instances though, the polls weren’t nearly big enough to paint an accurate picture of what’s to come.
Nevertheless, experts believe that seniors and older voters in general with an outdated and baseless distaste for cannabis could cause huge problems for the ‘yes’ campaign.
Well, them and one very questionable drug company.
The entire debate surrounding cannabis legalization is supposed to be focusing on the greater good. If it turns out it can benefit the public in some way, it should be allowed out into the wild. But at the same time, if it stands to harm your bottom line as a massive drug company, you’d probably prefer to keep it off the streets and maintain your monopoly.
Which is why it’s not hugely surprising that one Chandler-based Insys Therapeutics has become the single biggest backer of the ‘no’ campaign, in terms of cash contributions. So far, they’ve pumped a full $500,000 of their own cash into the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy push, in order to help ensure the public has no choice but to go on lining their pockets. And given the fact that what they produce is a pain-relief product for cancer patients, the word ‘unscrupulous’ seems a little too lenient.
“They want to be able to push their far more addictive, far more harmful and far more dangerous opioid drugs,” said J.P. Holyoak, chairman of the committee in favour of cannabis legalization.
Unsurprisingly, those backing the anti-cannabis campaign weren’t willing to comment on the obvious financial motives of Insys Therapeutics, with regard to their generous donation. Instead, they said all such questions should be directed to the company itself, where a statement released insisted that the pro-cannabis bill “fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.”
“We believe that all available medicines should meet the clinical standards set by the FDA,” the painfully contrived statement continued.
Opponents of the bill also insisted than in terms of monopolisation, the enacting of the bill will lead to even more unfair and unbalanced profiteering at the hands of the big businesses backing the ‘yes’ campaign.
“Proposition 205 may potentially benefit some of the existing dispensary owners,” agreed Holyoak.
“This is still an economy and they’re going to be winners and losers.”
Meanwhile, the ‘yes’ camp has just released a new video advertisement, which seeks to communicate just how beneficial legal cannabis will be for the schools of Arizona. The video features two parents and a teacher, who talk about the potential for cannabis tax dollars to fill a sizeable gap in the state’s schools funding budget.
And it’s no amateurish attempt at scoring a few brownie-points either. According to those who put the piece together, they spent six figures on the ad and are looking to get it on state-wide TV in the near future.
You can check out the video in full by clicking here.