Medical marijuana use has been legal in Arizona for a decade now, and relaxing public opinion has many wondering whether (or rather, when) recreational use will become a reality. But what is the actual likelihood of this happening?
Public opinion is one thing, but putting things to a vote is quite another. Which, if Arizona follows other state trends, is exactly how it will get legalized. Fortunately, by reviewing the facts, we can make some educated guesses on what is yet to come.
Arizona’s Tricky History with Cannabis Legalization
This discussion is nothing new, and in fact the state has reviewed recreational legalization before. In fact, the debate has only been heating up since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize it. A vote to legalize recreational cannabis use even took place in Arizona in 2016, but it failed with just with 48.7 percent of voters opting for approval.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still public interest. While there are certainly a lot of Arizona residents and officials who are still wary of legalization, the vote in 2016 was not truly necessarily representative of state opinion as a whole. In fact, it became public knowledge at the time that the pharmaceutical industry made sizable contributions in favor of keeping recreational use illegal.
Current Recreational Marijuana Initiatives
We’re not the only ones trying to predict whether or not Arizona will vote to approve marijuana recreational use. In December, Forbes listed Arizona as one of the top states likely to see it on ballots in 2020.
Currently, there are three different legalization ballot initiatives in the works for 2020. In the lead is an effort known as Smart & Safe Arizona, headed by medical marijuana dispensary companies Dispensary chains Harvest Health and Recreation and Curaleaf Holding. A third major chain, Med Men, was also part of the group but recently announced they will be moving out of state.
Some have cited Med Men’s departure as cause for concern, but the good news is that Smart & Safe Arizona already has sizable public support and is likely to make it to ballots this fall.
Understanding the Pros and Cons of Recreational Marijuana Legalization
Arizona is one of those states where a lot of people (especially in law enforcement and local government) are wary of legalization because of the feared repercussions. One commonly-held belief is that marijuana users will drive will under the influence and cause accidents. While this belief is not entirely unfounded, education is key in reducing people’s fears.
A large part of this will include increasing understanding of the pros of legalization. Increased tax revenue has been a major benefit for other states, as are decreases in crime and alcohol-related incidents.
Conclusion: Recreational Use will Come Eventually
While it is extremely likely that an initiative will make it to ballots again this year, only time will tell whether or not the measure will pass. It’s important to note that even if Arizona once again rejects a measure for legalization, the battle will still be far from over. After all, medicinal use eventually got approved after multiple votes (dating back to 1996).
It’s also worth pointing out that the likelihood of legalization will only increase as more and more states approve it. Now at the onset of 2020, recreational use is legal in 11 states (including Arizona’s neighbors, Nevada and California). More are projected to legalize it in the coming years.
When Arizona does eventually pass legalization, the state government will most likely follow in the footsteps of other states and set a long-term plan for legalization. For example, Colorado voters passed their legalization amendment in 2012, leading to full legalization in 2014.
So, Arizona residents in support of legalization just need to hang in there. With multiple ballot initiatives in the works, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes law.