An Arizona state representative recently introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state. House Bill 2007, introduced by democrat Mark Cardenas, would essentially allow the state to tax and regulate weed in a similar fashion to alcohol.
The bill proposes that anyone 21 years of age or older would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, grow up to five plants for personal consumption and legally trade different strains between one another. Transferals from cultivators to retail stores will have a $50 tax imposed on each ounce. Public smoking would continue to be banned.
The state Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimated that the tax could generate nearly $48 million dollars a year for Arizona. According to the bill, half of the money generated through the tax would go to the state’s general fund, 30 percent would go towards education and the outstanding 20 percent would be used for public health and scholastic curriculum.
“This is my way of thinking of a new and exciting way for us to close the [state] budget shortfall that is out there,” said Cardenas in an interview with Reuters. “This would help.”
Rep. Cardenas introduced House Bill 2006 in 2014. The measure called for a $100 civil penalty for anyone that in possession of 28 grams or less of cannabis. The bill was not heard.
Although Arizona allows medical pot and there is a foreseeable influx of cash that could be used by state government, the bill is considered unlikely to be passed. In response to this, advocates for recreational legalization have begun to draft initiatives centered on voters. If the bill doesn’t pass, a ballot for the measure would likely come before voters in 2016.
In an interview with AZFamily.com, attorney Ryan Hurley of Rose Law Group stated that he is “working day and night getting a bill ready for the 2016 session to run as a citizens’ initiative.”
“We’re likely to draft the initiative in a way that protects the medical marijuana program that is beneficial for the state and for the marijuana consumers in the state of Arizona,” he said.
Hurley is positive about the prospects of a recreational marijuana measure on ballot for voters. Marijuana Policy Project, the largest cannabis policy organization, announced that they are pushing for Arizona to get recreational pot on 2016 ballots. Maine, Nevada, California and Massachusetts are four other states targeted by the organization. Colorado and Washington state have already legalized recreational weed, with Alaska and Oregon ballot measures successfully passing allowing them to become the next states. The District of Columbia has also legalized recreational weed.
Challengers of legalization, such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana, maintain that legalizing recreational marijuana only results in a surge of usage. With edibles allowing even greater ease of access, many see Colorado and Washington state as Sodom and Gomorrah for marijuana users. Although deemed illegal by the federal government, states have the power to deem marijuana as legal as they wish.
Last November, Arizona voters approved ballot measure Prop 122 which allows the state to reject unconstitutional federal acts. With the passing of HB 2007, marijuana would be legalized and the federal prohibition of it would be nullified.
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