Will Arizona join the growing list of states which allow the sale and recreational use of marijuana?
It seems inevitable, and there are some good reasons to decriminalize marijuana. Yet there are some bad ways to go about it, ways that raise more legal issues than they settle and threaten workplace and roadway safety.
Arizonans will be presented with one of the latter varieties in the November election in the form of Prop. 207.
Prop. 207 would legalize for adults the possession and use of up to one ounce of marijuana, allow a very limited number of marijuana plants to be grown at home, provide tens of millions of dollars for community colleges and public health and safety agencies and expunge criminal records for previous marijuana convictions, including paraphernalia.
That all sounds pretty good, including the provision for a one-time transfer of $45 million for a teachers academy and various health, safety and education programs.
Prop. 207 goes downhill from there.
Though purporting to support workplace and public safety rules against drug impairment, it very much muddies existing law on what that means. Under Prop. 207, impairment isn’t defined but it does say that neither the presence of marijuana smoke nor bloodstream metabolites are evidence of impairment.
This leaves very little way, short of confession, for a worker or a driver to be deemed impaired. To our mind, this provision alone warrants rejection of Prop. 207.
Since Prop. 207 is backed by existing medical marijuana dispensaries, it’s no surprise the proposition gives essentially first dibs to those dispensaries for the very few retail licenses.
Issues of fairness aside, the limits on those licenses raises doubts about the projection that the 16% additional tax (plus regular sales tax) would raise some $166 million each year for the state.
Marijuana legalization would unclog the courts and jails and let law enforcement focus on more serious crimes. In that regard, legalizing pot would save a lot of taxpayer money. Unfortunately, Prop. 207 is likely, if approved, to reclog the courts in sorting out impairment and other provisions of the law, if approved. It might simplify some things in Mohave County, which adjoins two states where marijuana possession and use is legal and where the common waterways create thorny legal issues.
The Arizona Legislature considered offering its own marijuana referendum but unfortunately did not do so.
Instead, voters are offered Prop. 207, to which they should just say no.
— Today’s News-Herald