The Fight For Legal Cannabis in Arizona, By Paul James

The Fight For Legal Cannabis in Arizona, By Paul James

A perfect example of this is Arizona, where two organizations are currently pushing initiatives for cannabis legalization: the AZ Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Dispensary Association (ADA). Each initiative would give adults over the age of 21 the legal right to possess marijuana. However, each also has its own set of regulations which would shape the landscape of Arizona’s cannabis industry.

These regulations play two significant roles – not only can they shape the future of cannabis, but they can determine whether or not legalization goes through.

The Narrow Loss of Prop 205This isn’t the first time Arizona has attempted to legalize cannabis. Back on November 8th, 2016, Arizonans were given their first chance to vote on the matter under Proposition 205. Though the proposal was a loss, the numbers it retrieved tell us a lot about the ever-changing climate of cannabis.48.68% of voters (1,233,323) were in favor of cannabis legalization while 51.32% (1,300,344) opposed it. The difference was less than 100,000 voters, which screams Arizona just might be ready in the coming 2020 election season.

Kevin Sabet of SAM Action stated, in concerns to the loss, “The overarching lesson was that if we could raise enough money early, we can win.”This may have just been the issue. Back during this election, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was at the forefront of this initiative. They had garnered $6.5 million in funds to promote Proposition 205.Their opponents, which were a collection of various industries including a synthetic painkiller company, were able to collect $6.4 million. Therefore, the fight for legalization was pretty even and, considering Arizona is a dominantly conservative state, the loss wasn’t too out of character.

However, nearly four years later, the tides seem to have turned. For now, the fight isn’t so much about legalizing cannabis as much as it is about who will have control over the industry once marijuana is inevitably legalized.

The Arizona Dispensary AssociationIt’s important to note, back in 2016, there were 101,416 medical marijuana cardholders in the state of Arizona. The most recent report (April 2019) shows this number has more than doubled to 203,683 cardholders.Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2010 But the numbers show that support for cannabis has picked up more so in recent years. And this could have a huge outcome on the 2020 elections.

Currently, the Arizona Dispensary Association (ADA) has majority control over the medical cannabis industry. Most of the big-name cannabis brands within Arizona, such as Canamo and Harvest, operate under them.

The ADA has recently made a proposal to Legislature known as the Smart and Safe initiative. Ultimately, this proposal would give ADA most of the control over the legal cannabis market. And if the Smart and Safe initiative were to go through, it would give perks to both consumers and lawmakers.

• Dispensaries already operating would immediately have the right to sell recreationally, which would be a huge improvement in comparison to other states where consumers had to wait up to a year in order to purchase recreational cannabis.

• Stricter regulations around the industry that would set safer standards for harvesting testing etc., but also make it more difficult for newcomers to get a piece of the market.

• Put a limit to the number of dispensaries allowed to open within the state of Arizona. Though this would give ADA a monopoly over the Arizona cannabis market, it seems most Arizona voters would prefer cannabis dispensaries not to appear on every street corner.

In direct response to ADA is another organization that believes the cannabis industry deserves as many opportunities as any other free-market within the country.

The AZ Cannabis Chamber of CommerceThe AZ Cannabis Chamber of Commerce has also recently introduced an initiative known as Small Business Liberty Act. This proposal too would legalize adult use of marijuana, but also has other goals for the market that differ greatly from ADA’s.

• Easier access to marijuana dispensaries in more rural areas. Particularly, those in which there aren’t currently medical marijuana dispensaries.

• The establishment of 100 plus dispensaries more than the current number of facilities that already exist under the medical marijuana industry.

• The introduction of 25 “craft” licenses which would give smaller growers the right to plant and sell without needing any connections to big grow operations.

• Regulations that would be given to the Department of Liquor and Licenses Control

It’s important to note that the AZ Cannabis Chamber of Commerce is a much smaller organization in comparison to ADA. And though their proposal seems more geared towards Arizona businesses and entrepreneurs, it may not have the same threshold on the public as ADA does.

Recently, a few polls have been taken which are showing trends that closely replicate the public opinion of 2016’s Proposition 205. According to one of OH Predictive Insights’ recent polls, 50% of Arizona voters are in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis while 40% are opposed and 10% remain undecided.

Eileen Liao, the senior data analyst at OH Predictive Insights, explains, “The results indicate that Arizonans are feeling more comfortable with Marijuana Legalization than before. However, it still faces resistance from the same demographic groups of Republicans, women, and older voters.”Though the numbers look to be in favor of legalization, a big issue is they don’t illustrate the full opinion of voters. For example, as we discussed before, a good chunk of voters would prefer to see the number of dispensaries opening in Arizona be limited. Therefore, this group of people would be more likely to vote for the Smart and Safe initiative rather than the Small Business Liberty Act.

What ultimately will decide whether or not cannabis legalization goes through is which initiative takes the public’s interest.

As of now, all we can really do is wait and see. According to everything we’ve reviewed throughout this article, it does seem Arizona has a good chance of recreationally legalizing cannabis in 2020. However, this decision will ultimately be determined by which proposal goes through.

If the Smart and Safe initiative is chosen, many Arizonans might feel more inclined to vote “yes” on adult-use. Particularly because ADA already knows this industry and would set up regulations that cater to their needs.

If the Small Business Liberty Act is chosen, the public may not feel as inclined, but those interested in getting into this industry certainly will. Particularly because the AZ Cannabis Chamber of Commerce is looking to develop a freer market in Arizona’s cannabis industry.

Written and Published By Paul James In Weed World Magazine Issue 146

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