Come November, Arizona will put its voice to a highly-supported ballot initiative known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. If given the voter green light, Arizona will legalize recreational adult use of marijuana.
In 2016, Arizona’s attempt to legalize recreational marijuana stalled. That initiative lost, in theory, because advocates for the initiative were obstinate to compromise on issues that included what was then Proposition 205. It’s believed if not for this conflict, recreational marijuana use had a powerful chance of winning on the ballot.
The Smart and Safe Arizona Act had already gotten enough signatures to be added to voter ballots in 2020. If passed in November, state lawmakers and the Arizona Department of Health Services will need to establish regulations to be followed by the recreational marijuana industry. This will be done before or by April 2021. By January 2023, the Arizona Department of Health Services hopes to put rules in place that permits delivery of recreational marijuana.
The Act would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana that has no more than five grams being marijuana extracts (concentrates). There would be limits on private cultivation based on circumstances. Individuals would be allowed to grow up to six plants at their primary residence while 12 plants could be cultivated in a residence in which at least two adults of at least 21 years of age live.
Anyone found possessing between one and 2.5 ounces of marijuana could be charged with a petty offense.
In a first offense, minors in possession of less than an ounce will be court mandated to undergo four hours of drug counseling and fined up to $100. A second offense could again be up to $100 but the drug counseling period would double to eight hours. Third offenses would be treated as Class 1 misdemeanors.
The state would apply the same excise tax to recreational marijuana products that’s applied to alcohol and cigarettes. The 16 percent tax would (a) be used to fund a variety of state agencies and (b) be dispersed to the Highway User fund, community colleges, and fire and police departments.
Adhering to the age limit on the initiative, marijuana products could not be sold or marketed to anyone under 21, nor could marketing include imitated brands or images of humans, insects, fruits, animals, cartoons, or toys. Users would still be subject to petty offenses if they smoke in public places as marijuana usage will remain illegal in parks, restaurants, sidewalks, and other public spaces. Anyone found smoking marijuana in a public place will be charged with a petty offense. The zero tolerance rule would remain in effect, so operating any vehicle under even a small amount of marijuana would be illegal.
Though no guidelines have been set, “qualified early applicants” could apply for one of the state’s 145 licenses with the Arizona Department of Health Services that will allow dispensing of marijuana. Health services might issue recreational marijuana dispensary licenses to only two recreational dispensaries in a single county that doesn’t already have a medical marijuana dispensary, or one license per county which has at least one medical marijuana dispensary. Any additional requested licenses would be issued by random selection.
The Arizona Department of Health Services will begin accepting license applications in January of 2021 with a planned deadline in March 2021. As of, if not before April 2021, medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to sell products for recreational purposes to adults over 21 only if no licenses have been granted in that county. But these dispensaries will also need to apply for a license if they want to continue operation in both the medical and recreational fields.
Marijuana edibles will have a maximum THC of 10mg per edible and packaged edibles would be limited to 100mg of THC. Approved facilities will test marijuana for pesticides, mold, and other toxic contaminants.
Patients of Urban Greenhouse of Arizona who have been convicted of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, or six or fewer marijuana plants, or of possessing paraphernalia, will have the right to get their record expunged. This will begin in July 2021.
Recreational marijuana is already legal in 11 states.