Recreational marijuana use will soon be legal in Arizona thanks to the simple passing of Proposition 207, but economic and logistical hurdles will remain before Arizonans feel the effects.
The measure, approved by more than 60% of voters in unofficial results as of November 3, decriminalizes recreational marijuana use and possession for those aged 21 and over. allows minor, non-violent marijuana offenders to request their criminal records deleted; and levies a consumption tax to support underfunded programs across the state.
Once the Arizona Secretary of State approves the proposal, it is expected to do so Monthly use and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is legal, except in public places. Despite the passage of the law, marijuana possession, distribution, and use remain federal crimes.
Pharmacies and growers, who have become a familiar presence in Arizona since voters narrowly approved marijuana for medical use in 2010, must await state approval to sell marijuana for recreational use.
The application for state licenses is expected to open in January, and the organizers of Proposition 207 predict recreational sales will start on April 5th.
A key element of Proposition 207 is the ability to clear a criminal record that can hamper employment, disrupt the right to vote, and damage reputation.
According to Jared Keenan, a senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona, Proposition 207 is the first Arizona voter action to offer expulsion. However, the process may be different in each of Arizona’s 15 counties, depending on the population and whether the prosecutor endorsed the measure.
Currently, Keenan said, all marijuana convictions are criminal offenses, which means convicts could lose their voting rights, access to social housing and food aid, and federal student loan eligibility. Having a criminal record also makes it harder to find a job.
Representatives of pharmacies and marijuana producers and processors are optimistic about the future of their business under the new law. For now, however, it’s a waiting game.
According to azmarijuana.com, pharmacies can apply for a license for adult recreational use from January 19 to March 9. The Arizona Department of Health is expected to approve licenses within 60 days.
The 16% excise tax will support Proposition 207 community colleges, mental health programs, maternal mortality programs, efforts to combat the disabled and other underfunded needs in the state. The tax is in addition to state and local sales taxes of approximately 9%.
Colorado is among at least a dozen states, including California and Illinois, that have legalized recreational marijuana. Arizona was one of four states that legalized it for adults 21 and older on November 3rd.