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Arizona May Soon Become One of the Most Cannabis-Friendly States

A close look at Prop 205, the initiative to legalize recreational use in AZ.

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On Nov. 8, 2016, residents of Arizona will have the opportunity to make their state one of the most cannabis-friendly states in the country. The forthcoming ballot will feature Proposition 205, which if passed, will effectively legalize marijuana across the entire state. Here’s a quick overview of what this initiative would mean if it gets passed during this November.

The initiative, which would not take effect until Sept. 1, 2018 if it passes, would allow people who are 21 or older to lawfully use marijuana products in private, but would still prohibit possession or use at school. Those who are caught smoking or using cannabis in public may be subject to a $300 fine. The proposition would also allow employers to disallow marijuana use by their workers at their own discretion.

Although private use would be fully legalized, landlords will be able to bar tenants from possessing or smoking marijuana in their homes. Additionally, it will be against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana, though police forces around the United States have been searching for an effective way to implement this law.

As far as cannabis stores go, the state’s active medical marijuana dispensaries and other wishful owners will have the chance to apply for a recreational license. The application itself will cost $5,000, and if approved, obtaining the actual license would cost an additional $20,000. Half of these licensing fees will go directly to the city or town in which the applicant would like to open up shop. The initiative would not allow “weed bars” to open just yet, as no license to allow marijuana use inside of a business will be made available until at least 2020. Lastly, the number of licenses granted will be extremely limited, as the number must not exceed 10 percent of the state’s liquor sales licenses.

If passed, the measure stands to bring in a lot of money for the state’s school districts and charter schools, as the initiative claims that 80 percent of cannabis revenue will go toward education. Half of that revenue will go toward school construction and teacher salary, while the other half will be used to provide full-day kindergarten programs across the state. The other 20 percent of the total revenue would go to the state's health department, which will use it for public education on the harms of drug use.

The measure would give Governor Doug Ducey the task of selecting a director for the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, an entity that would regulate cannabis use in the state. Ducey would also appoint seven people to the marijuana commission, four of them independent of the marijuana industry and three with close ties to it. These appointments would run for three years before changing up, and will aim to be as geographically diverse as possible.

At first glance, Arizona might not seem like a prime candidate to enable recreational cannabis, but believe it or not, the new initiative has been able to overcome its opponents thus far. For instance, an anti-legalization group called Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy tried to challenge the legitimacy of the initiative before it even hit the ballot, but a state judge effectively shot that down. Other opponents, such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are hoping to appeal the decision, but they’re running out of time before the mail-in ballots are printed up in the next couple weeks.

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Ultimately, although nothing is certain, things are looking up for cannabis advocates in Arizona right about now. The state already has a viable and profitable medicinal marijuana setup, and could seamlessly switch over to allow recreational use if Prop 205 does pass. We won’t find out the decision until the ballot is voted on in November, but rest assured that the country’s advocates will be watching closely and rooting heavily in favor of this game-changing initiative.

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