Legal cannabis initiative files 420,000 signatures in Arizona in preparation for November ballot

Jul 2, 2020

On Wednesday, Smart & Safe Arizona, the citizen’s initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis announced that 420,000 signatures had been filed with the Arizona Secretary of State, nearly double the amount needed to qualify for ballot access in November. It’s a significant win for the pro-cannabis movement in the Copper State, which has been collecting signatures for over 10 months.

To date, the campaign has raised more than $3 million. According to a statement released on Wednesday by the Arizona Dispensary Association, proponents remain optimistic about their chances come this November, with expectations high that the measure will pass.

“Arizonans are ready to legalize cannabis, and this is the right policy for our state,” said Arizona Dispensary Association President Steve White, CEO of Harvest Health and Recreation in a statement. “New jobs and revenue are even more critical today than when we embarked on this campaign last year.”

The measure itself offers a detailed plan to bring legalization to Arizona. Along with legalizing possession and consumption of up to one ounce of weed for adults over the age of 21, the measure includes several safety precautions. It calls for the banning of smoking in public spaces, childproof packaging on cannabis edibles, and increased penalties for driving under the influence.

Employers will be able to ban workplace cannabis use, and THC limits will be enforced. ON the other hand, however, the measure will “[d]o the right thing by providing an option for folks who were previously convicted of low-level marijuana charges to have their criminal records expunged, so they have fair access to jobs and housing.”

Proponents expect the measure, when passed, to generate upwards of $300 million in new revenue for the state, which will go towards community colleges, public safety, public health programs, and roads and highways. Some of those funds will be dedicated to addiction prevention and substance abuse treatment as well.

The measure is popular among voters in the state, with a May 2020 poll from Arizona public affairs firm HighGround showing that 65 percent of people plan to vote yes. It’s a stark turnaround from a few years ago when a similar measure, Prop 205, failed in the state.

But some in Arizona worry that legal cannabis is rushing forward at the behest of big industry, without leaving space for independent operators. Mason Cave, president of the Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, told Marijuana Business Daily in March that “(There’s) too much power in too few hands.”

Since February of last year, according to MJBizDaily, seven MSOs have gained or expanded their footholds in Arizona, making it likely that there will be no room for mom and pop stores once cannabis is legal. Those operators include Illinois-based Cresco Labs, Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, Arizona-based 4Front Holdings, Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation, New York-based iAnthus Capital Holdings, California-based MedMen Enterprises, and Minneapolis-based Vireo Health.

And while many of these companies have come in and helped to turn around some of the failing dispensaries in Arizona’s medical cannabis space, some worry that they’ll leave no room for innovation once legal cannabis happens this fall.

“We’re concerned about the monopolistic effect on the industry,” said cannabis attorney Janet Jackim of Sacks Tierney in the Phoenix area to MJBizDaily. “We think it’s important that more of the community gets an opportunity to get involved in this burgeoning business.”

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