Arizona Voters to Decide on Legalizing Marijuana This Fall, Despite Federal Prohibition

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Aug. 18, 2016) – The Arizona secretary of state has approved a ballot measure to legalize the adult use and retail sale of marijuana in the state. This provides the opportunity to take another step toward thwarting federal prohibition in effect.

If passed by Arizona voters, Proposition 205 would legalize marijuana for recreational use and establish licensed shops. The system would be similar to the one established in Colorado. The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow Arizonans 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

Supporters of the measure gathered 177,258 signatures. They needed least 150,642, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Opponents of legalization have filed a lawsuit asking a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to block the initiative. Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy claims language in the proposition summary is flawed and confusing. Supporters of Prop 205 say the lawsuit is just a way to keep voters from having their say.

“Most of the arguments that they made were not supported by any kind of law,” Roy Herrera, the lawyer representing the Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol told ABC15  “And even the ones that were, I think, were incorrect.”

A hearing was held last week and a ruling is expected within the next few days.

Voters in Massachusetts, California, Maine and Nevada will also weigh in on legalizing adult use of marijuana in November. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Montana will decide whether to legalize medicinal cannabis. If Arizona, California and Nevada join Colorado, Washington state and Oregon, it would create a solid block of western states with legalized cannabis.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Legalization of marijuana in Arizona would remove yet another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of cannabis, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any lawful authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While Arizona law would not alter federal law, it would take a step toward blocking in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By essentially ending state prohibition, Arizona could essentially sweeps away part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

Arizona could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and more than two-dozen states now allow cannabis for medical use. With half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically stopping the ban.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” public policy expert Michael Boldin said.