Warm Southern Breeze

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Arizona Voters Approve Adult Recreational Use of Cannabis

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, January 23, 2021

In November, Arizonans voted overwhelmingly to legalize recreational sales of cannabis to adults.

By a margin of 653,982 votes, or 50.2113%, Arizona voters in that state’s General Election approved Arizona Proposition 207, known as the “Smart and Safe Arizona Act.”

The state’s fiscal analysis stated that “Annual state and local sales tax collections on these purchases may reach $88 million in the next several years. The initiative also requires a one-time transfer from the Medical Marijuana Fund of $45 million for the Department of Health Services, a university tuition program, and an impaired driving program.”

Among other provisions, as stated in its purpose, the “Act permits limited possession, transfer, cultivation, and use of marijuana (as defined) by adults 21 years old or older; protects employer and property owner rights; bans smoking in public places; imposes a 16% excise tax on marijuana to fund public safety, community colleges, infrastructure, and public health and community programs; authorizes state and local regulations for the sale and production of marijuana by a limited number of licensees; requires impairment to the slightest degree for marijuana DUls; transfers monies from the Medical Marijuana Fund; permits expungement of some marijuana violations; and prescribes penalties for violations.”

Distribution of taxes collected upon its sale would be as follows:
• 33.0% to community colleges
• 31.4% to local law enforcement and fire departments
• 25.4% to the state and local transportation programs
• 10.0% to public health and criminal justice programs
• 0.2% to the Attorney General for enforcement

The state estimates that “based on a projected tax base of $1 billion, total state and local tax collections would be $254 million, including $166 million to the Smart and Safe Arizona Fund.”

“In its Medium-Series Population Projections, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) estimates that Arizona’s population will have reached 7.59 million by 2023. Given the $137 estimate for per capita sales, the OEO population estimate implies Arizona would have $1.04 billion of recreational marijuana sales in 2023.”

$254,391,600

Their revenue and sales estimates are based upon western states experiences, and they wrote that, “Arizona marijuana sales may increase further after the third year. States with more than 3 years of sales data have experienced continued growth in years 4 and 5. In Colorado, Oregon, and Washington recreational marijuana sales grew by a weighted average of 20.5% in year 4. In Colorado, the only state with 5 full years of data, sales grew by another 11.2% in year 5. We do not attempt, however, to project past the third year due to the speculative nature of long-run forecasting.”

The Arizona analysis also examines the cost associated with expungement, meaning the legal elimination of any criminal record associated with whatever record is being expunged. They cited a Pew Charitable Trusts analysis in November 2017, which stated in part that, “California only had 1,506 applications for expungement its first year of legalization and Oregon saw only 1,206 petitions combined between 2015-2017. Furthermore, the 192,000 estimate includes all convictions for marijuana possession, whereas the initiative provides the expungement option only to those who were convicted of marijuana possession of 2.5 ounces or less.”

They also note as well, that “the initiative does provide a revenue source for DPS administrative costs. The initiative authorizes DPS to collect a “reasonable fee determined by the Director” for costs to “correct the petitioner’s criminal history record” unless the individual is indigent.”

Control, or rather, elimination of the illicit black market is also a strong motivator for government in the legalization, taxation, and regulation of cannabis, especially and particularly for Adult Recreational Use. To that end, Arizona’s fiscal analysts wrote that, “If the limited number of retail locations authorized under the initiative is insufficient to meet demand, then current marijuana users may be more likely to continue to purchase illegally or from medical dispensaries, potentially decreasing the size of the legal market.”

Elimination of the illicit black market was also a very strong motivating factor in Oklahoma’s recent liberalization of cannabis laws, particularly and especially for medical use. See Oklahoma Has Become A Free Market Utopia For Weed,” published 11/2/2020 for more details. Of course as well, an “unintended consequence” for ALL states which have liberalized their cannabis laws, is an INCREASE in private enterprise, and entrepreneurship – the veritable “holy grail” of most Republicans… and Democrats, if folks would be honest about the matter.

Arizona’s fiscal analysts also acknowledge a very important, yet almost-overlooked matter: It is of local regulation. They write that, “the proposition grants localities certain regulatory powers regarding marijuana establishments, including the prohibition of such establishments within its jurisdiction. Should localities exercise these powers, it could lower marijuana consumption and thus tax revenue obtained from it. The initiative prohibits, however, localities from enacting any regulation more restrictive than comparable laws regarding medical marijuana dispensaries. If a jurisdiction allows for marijuana establishments, then it may not make laws which make it unduly burdensome to operate.”

Again, acknowledgement of a segment of the “holy grail” of many Republicans, which is government regulation. Typically, the SCOTUS has allowed, and acknowledged that state or local rules may be, and sometimes are, more restrictive than Federal laws. And, in most cases, that is not necessarily a problem, legal, or otherwise. However, in this instance, the measure’s authors thought to acknowledge that some localities could, and would – if allowed – exercise discriminatory and prohibitive regulation. And so, for that reason, the measure’s authors sought to “nip it in the bud” by specifically stating that local governments could not enact legislation or regulation so prohibitive, or restrictive to the extent that in effect, it would deny the right of others to engage in lawful activity, meaning the sale and consumption of cannabis.

Accordingly, the measure’s authors also acknowledged that sales for ARU would incur taxes that MMJ (Medical MariJuana) sales would not, though they also acknowledged that MMJ consumers might also purchase from the ARU market.

“Under the initiative, the 16.0% retail excise tax only applies to sales of recreational cannabis products. Purchases made by medical cardholders from a licensed medical retailer are currently exempt from this tax. According to the DHS, there are approximately 240,000 current medical cardholders in Arizona. They pay, however, a bi-annual fee of $150 for their card. If these individuals purchase small levels of marijuana each year, they may opt to not renew their card and instead purchase through the recreational market. Our analysis does not attempt to calculate the percentage of medical cardholders that will switch and is instead based on the actual revenue experience of other states that have legalized recreational sales.”

And finally, it would be remiss of any researcher to ignore the naysayers, and as with anything touching upon responsible adult behavior, there are some with cannabis, as well. Some would, for example, be happy as a lark to completely outlaw tobacco, spirituous beverage, and impose fines upon individuals who do not attend worship services on at least a twice-weekly basis, in addition to mandating their mode of attire and other aspects of personal and private behavior – essentially, by their private interpretations of their equally-private religion. Fortunately, our nation is not a rule by despotic religious totalitarians, but instead, a constitutionally-organized democratic republic.


Arizona, 15th State With Legal Pot, Sees Recreational Sales

By Bob Christie and Suman Naishadham

PHOENIX (AP) — Legal sales of recreational marijuana in Arizona started on Friday, a once-unthinkable step in the former conservative stronghold that joins 14 other states that have broadly legalized pot.

The state Health Services Department on Friday announced it had approved 86 licenses in nine of the state’s 15 counties under provisions of the marijuana legalization measure passed by voters in November. Most of the licenses went to existing medical marijuana dispensaries that can start selling pot right away.

“It’s an exciting step for those that want to participate in that program,” said Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona’s state health director, on Friday.

Under the terms of Proposition 207, people 21 and older can grow their own plants and legally possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana or a smaller quantity of “concentrates” such as hashish. Possession of between 1 ounce and 2.5 ounces (70 grams) is a petty offense carrying a maximum $300 fine.

The march toward decriminalization in the Sun Belt state was long. Approval of the legalization measure came four years after Arizona voters narrowly defeated a similar proposal, although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2010.

The initiative faced stiff opposition from Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP leaders in the state Legislature, but 60% of the state’s voters in the November election approved it.

The vote on marijuana reflected larger trends at play during the historic election that saw Democrat Joe Biden flip the longtime Republican state where political giants include five-term conservative senator Barry Goldwater and the late GOP Sen. John McCain.

Changing demographics, including a fast-growing Latino population and a flood of new residents, have made the state friendlier to Democrats.

The recreational pot measure was backed by advocates for the legal marijuana industry and criminal justice reform advocates who argued that the state’s harsh marijuana laws were out of step with the nation. Arizona was the only state in the country that still allowed a felony charge for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana, although most cases were prosecuted as lower-level misdemeanors.

The vast majority of the licenses issued Friday were in Maricopa County, the state’s largest county that’s home to Phoenix and its suburbs. Other counties with dispensaries now allowed to sell recreational pot are Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties.

Voters in New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana also approved making possession of recreational marijuana legal last November.

Arizona prosecutors dropped thousands of marijuana possession cases after the measure was approved. Possession in the state technically became legal when the election results were certified on Nov. 30 but there was no authorized way to purchase it without a medical marijuana card.

Voters in November dealt another blow to Republicans in control of the state’s power levers when they approved a new tax on high earners to boost education funding, a move that came after years of GOP tax cuts and the under-funding of public schools.

https://apnews.com/article/arizona-phoenix-medical-marijuana-health-recreational-marijuana-95e630bac9a26a3c2e855eba101a7e2c

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