Another Arizona Cannabis Initiative
Last week, a new proposal was introduced by the Arizona Cannabis Chamber of Commerce to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state. Known as the Small Business Liberty Act, the bill’s central aim seems to be to ensure that the large-scale dispensaries that already dominate the state’s cannabis industry do not overrun the budding recreational market. If passed, the initiative would permit 125 new marijuana licenses that would be divided amongst rural retailers, craft production facilities, and shops of different sizes. The law would also require that existing medical marijuana dispensaries pay $100,000 to enter into the recreational cannabis space. Otherwise known as AZC3, the small group pushing the proposal is mostly made up of growers and other industry representatives.
AZC3’s bid is set to compete with an existing, industry-backed initiative, known as the Safe and Smart Act. Widely supported by dispensary owners and others, the Safe and Smart Act already appears poised to garner enough signatures to land a spot on 2020 ballots. By contrast, it requires existing dispensaries to pay only $25,000 to join the recreational market, and would issue fewer new licenses—just 26—keeping the industry smaller at first.
The Small Business Liberty Act appears to have a rocky road ahead, and would need to convince a majority of the Republican-led state legislature to get on board. At present, some legislators aren’t in favor of any recreational marijuana bill at all, while others—including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, would prefer to have a bill crafted by legislators, rather than the cannabis industry. This is largely because Arizona ballot initiatives (legislation written by the public, instead of lawmakers) are almost impossible to modify after they have been passed.
So far, it appears that Arizonans may have more than one choice when it comes to cannabis on the 2020 ballot.
Key Congressional Committee Votes to Federally Legalize Cannabis
Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee has held a historic vote in Congress to end the federal prohibition of cannabis. The proposal, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed on Wednesday with bipartisan support in a 24 to 10 vote. Incredibly, this is the first time in the country’s history that the public has seen a congressional committee pass a legalization bill.
In order to be passed into law, the bill would need to be adopted by the rest of the House of Representatives and garner significant support in the Senate before being scheduled for a vote by the latter.
Aside from removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the bill would also set aside funding for social justice initiatives to address the harms caused by the war on drugs, which have disproportionately affected people of color. The act would provide for resentencing and expungement of records for people with previous cannabis convictions and would protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over marijuana cases. It would also block federal agencies from denying public benefits over marijuana use.
Although California Senator Kamala Harris has introduced sister legislation in the Senate, it is uncertain how the higher chamber will react to the Judiciary Committee’s passage of a such a far-reaching legalization bill. Many contend that only a more conservative proposal to exempt state-approved cannabis use from federal prohibition stands a chance in the Republican-controlled legislature.
We’ll be following these events and others as they happen! Stay tuned for the latest…