County News

A voter proposition to regulate and tax the use and sale of recreational marijuana will be on the November ballot despite attempts by opponents to derail the effort in the courts.

On Aug. 19, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry dismissed a 50-page lawsuit filed July 11 by 13 plaintiffs including Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, MATForce Chairwoman Merilee Fowler, Verde Valley Fire District firefighter Ivan Anderson, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who alleged the propositions’ organizers deceived voters by not providing enough information on petitions about the law’s effect on other state laws.

In court, Montgomery admitted that Arizona law allows initiative organizers only 100 words for a summary on the petition.

Gentry said the petition was thus in compliance with state law and added: “Plaintiffs demonstrated no ability to prepare a summary that would comply with the 100-word limit and with their objections.”

The plaintiffs said the description omits:

  • The impact on public safety laws.
  • The impact on Arizona’s employment laws.
  • The impact on public benefits laws like Arizona’s Cash Assistance or Unemployment Insurance welfare programs.
  • The impact on the rights of private landlords, homeowners’ associations and property law generally.
  • The impact on family law in Arizona.
  • The impact on military personnel residing in Arizona.
  • The dramatic impact on Arizona’s existing drug laws.
  • The alleged inability of local governments “to regulate and limit marijuana businesses.”
  • The alleged creation of a cartel for the sole benefit of a small group of preexisting medical marijuana dispensary owners.

Gentry wryly pointed out, “The court’s above limited description of the alleged defects is 106 words, which exceeds the maximum allowed. Plaintiffs do not suggest what portions of the 96-word description that defendants used should be changed and deleted to accommodate the additional materials plaintiffs believe should be included in a 100-word or less description.”

The defendants — the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol — countered that the title “is not intended to encompass each and every provision in the initiative.”

“The tag line [regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol] is not misleading and in fact is correct,” Gentry wrote.

“The initiative will ‘regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.’ It does not say that the Initiative will regulate marijuana in a manner that is the same, or identical, as alcohol. It does not say that the initiative will regulate marijuana in a manner that is analogous to the regulation of alcohol. It says it will be similar.”

Among those differences, the law would:

  • Prevent the state now, and in the future, from creating per se driving under the influence of drug laws based on a person testing positive for marijuana.
  • Regulate underage marijuana use and related crimes more leniently — as petty offenses — versus class 1 misdemeanors for similar alcohol violations.
  • Create a statutory right to use marijuana.
  • Allow the sale of marijuana only at specially licensed facilities, whereas alcohol can be sold at convenience and grocery stores as well as state-licensed liquor stores.
  • Create a statutory right to possess marijuana accessories and paraphernalia.

“Plaintiffs, nonetheless, persist in asserting that omitting these provisions from the summary along with what they consider misstatements about the provisions that were included makes the summary fraudulent,” Gentry wrote. “Plaintiffs’ position is in essence that the summary should have more fully described what the initiative will do but do not explain how they could do it better.”

Gentry also ruled that due to election code changes enacted by the Arizona State Legislature last year, House Bill 2407 struck the part of state law allowing any citizen to challenge the legality of initiative petitions and “Thus, whether wittingly or not, the legislature eliminated a means by which initiative petitions can be challenged.”

That part of the ruling effectively states the plaintiffs have no legal standing to challenge the proposition.

On Aug. 11, Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan office certified the signatures and placed Proposition 205 on the ballot.

County recorders validated 8,864 signatures and disqualified 3,611 signatures, a 28.95 percent signature failure rate, well beneath 38.4 percent failure rate that would disqualify the initiative. The state estimated the total number signatures as 177,258, which exceeds the minimum 150,642 signatures needed.

Proposition 205
The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act will be on the Tuesday, Nov. 8, ballot as Proposition 205. If passed, it:
Establishes a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, from which the revenue will be allocated to public health and education
Allows adults 21 old and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana
Creates a system in which licensed businesses can produce and sell marijuana
Establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation and sale of marijuana;
Provides local governments with the authority to regulate and limit marijuana businesses.

The plaintiffs have appealed Gentry’s ruling.


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