In hopes of raising millions of dollars in revenue for the state, Republican Representative Ethan Orr plans to introduce a proposal that would fully legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21 in Arizona. Although the state does currently have a medical marijuana program for patients with qualifying illnesses, many advocates within the state feel a drastic change in legislation is long overdue.
The new proposal would potentially legalize cannabis throughout the entire state by as early as next year by circumventing a voter-approved measure. Some advocates are skeptical of the move to pursue legalization especially considering Orr’s comments regarding the quick pace towards changes in legislation.
“I would rather us as elected leaders be the ones directing the conversation and the debate, and ultimately controlling the policy, as opposed to letting it go to a citizens’ initiative where you can’t change the law once it’s in place,” he said.
Past attempts from former representatives to legalize cannabis haven’t been fruitful, but Orr could possibly be more successful in his efforts due to his history with trying to progress marijuana legislation. Last session, he sponsored a proposal that would allow the money from medical marijuana users and dispensaries to go towards studies that would research the effects of cannabis. The measure was approved by the House, but was rejected in the Senate.
If, for whatever reason, the proposal fails among lawmakers, residents may still be able to enjoy recreational marijuana. According to reports, the Marijuana Policy Project of Arizona (MPP) has launched their own campaign to legalize cannabis with plans to have the initiative ready to be placed on the 2016 ballot. If left up to the voters, there is a high chance that the initiative will pass. A recent study conducted by the Behavior Research Center shows that a majority of Arizona residents support legalizing marijuana. At a 56 percent support rate, that’s higher than the national average of 52 percent according to a report from Pew Research Institute.
“We applaud Rep. Orr for taking a stand for a more sensible law,” said Chris Lindsey, MPP’s legislative analyst. “For the time being, while we wish the representative and his legislation every success, our plans to place a measure before voters in 2016 has not changed.”
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