Arizonans are voting to legalize the use of recreational cannabis with Proposition 207. This has been an issue not only focused on the state level, but now, on a national level.
Prop. 207 is on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. If passed, it would decriminalize cannabis, also known as marijuana, for recreational use for those 21 and older. It would also tax cannabis at 16%. It is expected the tax would generate $166 million in annual tax revenue after a few years of a fully functional program.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, has sponsored the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. This bill is to be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives to remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances.
“Racially-motivated enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionally impacted communities of color. It’s past time to right this wrong nationwide and work to view marijuana use as an issue of personal choice and public health, not criminal behavior,” Nadler said when first announcing legislation.
This legalization of cannabis has long been a debate on both the federal and state levels as more states like California, Colorado and Nevada have classified it as a recreational drug. In total, 11 states recognize marijuana as a recreational substance.
The House vote, originally scheduled for September, has been pushed back until after the election.
The funds from this tax would be disbursed to community colleges, local law enforcement, state transportation programs and public health programs; this would allow for increased enforcement and education.
Cannabis has been embraced for its health benefits, specifically with pain management.
“It has been shown to help epilepsy by decreasing seizures, it has also been known to help with insomnia and cancer pain,” said Dr. Barry Berger. Berger practices internal medicine in the Phoenix area.
Cannabis use for medical purposes is already legal in Arizona. Prop. 203 passed in 2010 allowed marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Medical marijuana is regulated by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the same agency that would regulate recreational cannabis if 207 is passed.
Prop. 207 would also allow for people previously convicted of crimes related to the possession or cultivation marijuana to apply for an expungement on their record.
Jay Jones, Manager of The Rising PHX Foundation, an organization focused on helping marginalized persons create meaningful social change, said entrepreneurs who have made millions in this industry have a social responsibility to fight for the legalization.
“Prop. 207 should be passed because of the lengthy prison terms served by those who come from disenfranchised communities,” Jones said.
The Arizona Medical Association is against the passing of this legislation.
“ArMA’s opposition is due to not enough research determining the impact of prolonged marijuana use. Prop 207 is not in the best interest of patient safety or public health and is fraught with unintended consequences,” the ArMA wrote in a statement.
Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, launched an initiative “No on 207.” No on 207 claims the bill lacks oversight for the safety and health of Arizonans. No on 207 says there would be an increase in minors who use cannabis affecting children’s developmental stage.
Prop. 207 would increase the number of impaired drivers on the road, furthermore there is no roadside test to track how much cannabis has been consumed, unlike alcohol. Furthermore, the initiative notes that non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries would convert to for-profit businesses.
“This is something that has been long past due, I am in full support of it,” said Desiree Valdez, General Manager of Lacuna Kava Bar in Phoenix. Valdez manages the establishment known to sell CBD products. CBD is the second component of marijuana, noted for being non-psychoactive. It’s often used to treat anxiety, inflammation, and pain.
Proposition 205 in 2016, which would have allowed for the use of recreational cannabis, lost the ballot with 51% of votes against.