Marijuana initiative slyly spreads like weed


EJ Montini, The Republic |

Arizona is 125,000 signatures closer to legalizing marijuana.

It’s going to happen.

While the rest of us have concerned ourselves with presidential politics and terrorism (which sometimes seem indistinguishable) the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona has quietly collected more than 125,000 initiative signatures, well on its way to getting the needed 150,000 valid signatures by July 7.

“This is going even more quickly than we thought it would go,” deputy campaign manager Carlos Alfaro told me. “We’re looking forward to getting the signature process finished and get the campaign out there.”

Early indications are that the opposition has one argument: Fear.

“That’s it,” Alfaro said. “All they have is scare tactics. Their biggest strategy is to make people afraid. What they have to work with is fear and misinformation. We can quote numbers that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. We have the numbers to back up the idea that regulating marijuana and taxing it is a better way to go, a much better alternative.”

The law that would be called the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act allows individuals over 21 to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow small amounts. It couldn’t be consumed outside. There would be a 15 percent sales tax (which is estimated to bring as much as $40 million to the state’s education system.)

The law would establish a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control that would be responsible for regulating everything from cultivation to sale. Local government also would have some authority. The effort in Arizona is backed by the well-funded, well-organized national Marijuana Policy Project.

A Rocky Mountain Poll last summer found that 53 percent of Arizonans back legalizing marijuana for adults, with 39 percent opposed.

A well-funded fear campaign could cut into those numbers.

It might even beat it at the polls.

But not for long.

Acceptance of marijuana is growing faster than the weed itself. The argument isn’t going to be won or lost with glitzy campaign commercials but simply by the passage of time. We might as well get on it with it.

Like the acceptance of same-sex marriage legalizing marijuana is an argument that’s already been decided by a younger generation.

The opponents have lost.

“The last Gallop poll showed that a lot of younger people who have moved into voting age are pushing the positive numbers,” Alfaro told me. “But they also found that a lot of older people are giving this a second look. People reevaluate things. Just about everybody now knows someone who is benefiting from marijuana, in medical way, and that takes a lot of the old stigma away.

“It’s going to be weird 20 or 30 years from now, when the whole country goes this way. The numbers are there. What’s happening now is unproductive, inefficient and wasteful and the parallels with alcohol prohibition are there so I think it’s true. We’re going to wonder what took us so long.”


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