Bipartisan Bill Will Put Cannabis on the AZ Ballot

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Bipartisan Bill Will Put Cannabis on the AZ Ballot

Arizona voters may have another shot legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes if the bipartisan effort of Rep. Mark Cardenas and Rep. Todd Clodfelter succeeds.

They’re proposing House Concurrent Resolution 2037, which would refer a ballot measure to voters that would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use and develop up to six plants.

To date, 30 states — including Arizona — and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and 10 of these jurisdictions have fully legalized marijuana.

In 1996, Arizona was poised to join California in the record books when voters passed Proposition 200 to legalize medical marijuana.  The Arizona Legislature snuffed out that joint venture, repealing the legalization attempt a few months later.

The Republicans, not liking what the Legislature had completed in accordance with marijuana initiative, created the Voter Protection Act in 1998, which, among other things, prohibits the Legislature from repealing voter-passed legislation.  In 2010, Arizona voters passed Prop. 203, which legalized medical marijuana.  This time, the Legislature could not repeal the law.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington place the cannabis scene ablaze by legalizing recreational cannabis.  Soon after, Arizona lawmakers considered following suit.  In 2014, former state Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Phoenix Democrat, introduced a bill to fully legalize marijuana.  The bill failed, as has each similar bills introduced since then.

In 2016, Arizona voters narrowly failed to pass a legalization initiative. Many think that Prop. 205 went up in smoke because it gave priority in licensing to present marijuana companies, leaving only a precious few licenses available into free-market competition.

Why will it work this time? Well, this time the marijuana proposal has a Republican co-sponsor.   This could make it much easier for Republican legislators to encourage.

Additionally, the fact that this is a bipartisan proposal might not just help muster sufficient legislative support but may also result in a well and reasonably drafted ballot step.  The Cardenas-Clodfelter bill was probably drafted by legislative personnel and lawyers, whose business is to write legislation that fit seamlessly into the statute in Arizona.  The Legislature may want to take this opportunity to get its imprint on marijuana legalization.

Time will tell what happens with marijuana legalization, in Arizona and across the country.  But, for now, the present legalization campaign in Arizona faces two hurdles: a Republican-controlled Legislature who has historically disfavored legalization efforts, along with a federal authorities looking to reassert its authority.

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