After submitting more than 420,000 signatures July 1 to qualify an adult-use cannabis legalization measure for Arizona’s 2020 ballot, Smart and Safe Arizona’s campaign organizer, Stacy Pearson, is confident that the initiative will appear before voters this November.
The group needed to collect 237,645 valid signatures by July 2 to place its statutory measure on this year’s ballot, and despite setbacks stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Smart and Safe not only met, but dramatically exceeded, its goal.
“Everything’s tracking, so we’re confident that we’ll be on the ballot and we’ll win in November,” Pearson told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
Smart and Safe was the first of four initiatives in Arizona to submit signatures to the state, she added, so its initiative will be the first one processed. The state has until July 29 to perform a cursory examination of the signatures and submit a random sampling of 5% of the total to the county, which then verifies the sample line by line. The county then sends a validity number back to the state, and Pearson said Smart and Safe should know by mid-August whether its initiative is officially certified for the November ballot.
If ultimately approved by voters, the measure would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as grow up to six plants at home for personal use. The Arizona Department of Health, which already regulates and oversees the state’s medical cannabis program, would be charged with supervising the adult-use industry, as well, and the initiative mandates that the market launch by June 1, 2021.
The Department of Health would issue vertically integrated licenses to businesses to cultivate, process, and sell adult-use cannabis, as well as license adult-use testing facilities. Arizona’s existing medical cannabis businesses would be considered “early applicants,” as would applicants seeking to locate their business in a county with fewer than two existing medical cannabis operators.
Existing medical cannabis retailers awarded adult-use licenses would have to co-locate medical and adult-use sales in one storefront under the initiative.
The measure also would place a 5.6% sales tax and a 16% excise tax on adult-use cannabis to fund state agencies for the expenses related to implementing and managing the program, and any remaining tax revenue would be divided among community college districts, police and fire departments, the Highway User Fund, and a newly created Justice Investment Fund, which would support grants and programs related to public health, expungement, nonprofit services and social equity efforts.
These efforts would include provisions to expunge the criminal records of those previously convicted of low-level cannabis charges, as well as the designation of 26 business licenses for qualified social equity applicants.
Although Smart and Safe postponed polling due to the coronavirus crisis, Pearson said the campaign will launch polling efforts in the coming weeks to gauge support for legalization.
“We’ll be back in the field within the next couple of weeks with an update poll, but there have been some other polls done that are not affiliated with the campaign that show a pretty hefty lead,” she said.
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