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Arizona Activists Prepare for Their Chance to Legalize Cannabis in 2020


In 2016, Arizona came very close to being one of the handful of states that legalized cannabis during the election that year. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite get the number of votes needed to pass, leaving efforts on hold for the next opportunity. As we head into our next Presidential Election year in 2020, the time is right for activists to really start pushing for legalization all over again. And currently, at least two groups in the state are working on doing just that. 

“The sky has not fallen, everything is okay, no one is forcing or encouraging your kids to use marijuana,” said Demitri Downing, a founder of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association.

While one group – Smart and Safe Arizona – is just starting out, with their ballot language yet to be finalized, another group called the AZ Justice League has already submitted their ballot language earlier this year under the title “The AZ Justice League’s Cannabis Justice Act”. These are likely not the only efforts that are going to be circulating in the next year as we get closer to the election – but each of these groups will need to gather a minimum of 237,000 valid signatures by next year to make the ballot. 

Though the initiative has yet to be drafted for the Smart and Safe Arizona efforts, the initiative drafted by the AZ Justice League is slightly different than those passed by other states so far. The most notable difference is the fact that it would legalize cannabis use for adults 18 years of age and older (the same as tobacco and the lottery), rather than 21 and up (like alcohol, and marijuana in the other states where recreational use is legal). 

However, their initiative also includes stipulations that would be nice to see in future ballot initiatives, such as providing immediate release and post-conviction relief for those charged with cannabis offenses. Though that is a nice addition, the age of legality and the fact that the initiative would decriminalize all cannabis offenses could be reasons that voters will choose a different initiative.

In the end, the face of the matter is that if we are going to regulate cannabis like alcohol – the way legalization activists have intended it from the beginning – then people need to be prepared to take responsibility for themselves and their own cannabis consumption. There are few truly “bad” legalization initiatives that get very far. But the more we learn as other states legalize, the more regulation people are going to look for in these initiatives – making it even harder for groups like these to write an initiative that will please enough people to pass.