It’s petition season. Cannabis advocates around the country are starting the latest round in the fight to end marijuana prohibition and have begun compiling signatures in an effort to put legalization measures on the 2018 ballot in a huge swath of states.
In Arizona, the push towards recreational legalization is starting for the second straight election season, but is already facing the same barriers that lead to the failure of 2016’s legalization measure, Proposition 205.
According to the Phoenix New Times, a split in the goals and demeanor of Arizona’s pro-legalization activists is once again threatening the prospect of legal weed in the southwest state.
Safer Arizona, the advocacy group responsible for the 2018 legalization proposal that’s been making headlines over the past week, has been catching flak from older, more professional cannabis advocates for their “band of stoners” vibes and lax proposal for legalization.
"Folks like these are the reason Arizona may never be legal," Kathy Inman, spokesperson for the pro-cannabis group MomForce, told the New Times. "Unfortunately, these are just the types that keep the stereotypes alive and enable people like [Yavapai County Attorney] Sheila Polk to look like a hero ... It is super-frustrating. I have had to fight the grassroots as much as I have the prohibitionists."
Inman claims that the group’s unkempt look and blasé legalization proposal gives prohibition fans like Polk easy ammunition for their fear-mongering anti-cannabis campaign.
"The Safer crowd will not wear regular clothes — they insist on coming to Matforce events looking like a band of stoners, and sit there smug like they know everything," she said. "I want to include everyone in our events, but I have had serious messages blighted by their [homemade] signs.”
Safer Arizona’s new legalization proposal would create no limits for possession, allow home grows of 48 plants at a time, and make selling without a license a civil infraction with a punishment of only $300 in fines. But while most reasonable legalization proponents would argue that those guidelines are a little loose, David Wisniewski, who heads up Safer Arizona, isn’t ready to compromise.
"I'm going to promote unity, but we're not going to stop our campaign," Wisniewski said when asked about the prospect of another, separate legalization measure arising before 2018. But even unity might be out of the question if the other proposal “sucks,” the Safer Arizona leader told the New Times.
Wisniewski’s stubbornness might have to change if he actually wants to see recreational legalization in the Copper State anytime soon. While the group claims that they’ve acquired over 5,000 of the 156,042 signatures necessary to put the proposal on the ballot, finance reports show that Safer Arizona brought in only $906 in donations over the first three months of 2017. If you contrast that with the $6.5 million that was spent to defeat last year’s legalization proposition, it’s obvious that cannabis advocates have a long way to go and a lot of reconciliation to do if they really plan on passing legislation next year.