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6/13/2013 6:00:00 AM
Legal marijuana could come to Arizona

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Arizona could become one of the next states to legalize marijuana, if voters approve.

An organization called Safer Arizona filed paperwork with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office Tuesday to start collecting signatures to put the issue on the 2014 ballot.

The initiative would amend the state constitution to make it legal for anyone over the voting age to possess and use marijuana. It also sets up rules for the growth, manufacturing, sale and taxing of marijuana and marijuana products to the public for non-medical use.

It was the thought of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren getting arrested and having a felony record for a drug that he feels shouldn't be classified as a schedule one substance that drove Dennis Bohlke, Safer Arizona's treasurer, to get the ball rolling on the initiative.

"How devastating is that to have on your record or have to serve time in prison for?" he asked. "To me there was just no other way to get this issue solved (other than legalizing it.) I wanted to light a fire under the Legislature."

Shortly after Bohlke started researching the issue, Colorado and Washington state passed laws that legalized the drug by the general public.

"I saw the Colorado initiative get passed and thought I would use that as a template," said Bohlke. "I followed Colorado's tax structure (for legalized marijuana) and then went around to the different groups in Arizona, including the medical marijuana patients and legislators, and asked them what changes they would want to see in the law. I tried to create a well thought-out plan."

According to Safer Arizona's initiative, marijuana use would be governed by the same rules that alcohol is in the state, with a few exceptions.

• Residents who are older than the state's voting age, which is currently 18, would legally be able to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of the drug. Customers would have to show their state ID as proof that they are old enough to purchase marijuana.

• Marijuana stores would be prohibited from copying and keeping any personal information about their customers.

• Residents would also be able to grow up to 12 plants in a locked facility or fenced back yard.

• Penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana would be the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, law enforcement would have to back up any sobriety tests they have showing marijuana in a defendant's system with a video recording of their encounter.

• The state would not be able to remove children from a home because of a parent's use of marijuana.

• The state would not be able to confiscate a person's guns or weapons because they use marijuana.

• The state would not be able to cut off state services to someone who uses marijuana.

• Employers, schools and medical facilities are not required to accommodate the use, sale or possession of marijuana at their locations.

• Using marijuana in public would be governed under the same laws as drinking in public.

• Marijuana shops and grow facilities would pay a 15 percent tax to the state. Half of that money would go to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

• Customers would be charged sales tax.

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan said he hasn't read the entire initiative, but he's not surprised that it exists.

"We knew this was coming. Medical marijuana was nothing more than an opening for this," he said. "I think this would be a disaster."

His department has found that most of the medical marijuana patients are younger and taking the drug for "chronic pain," Sheahan said. "They're not using it for glaucoma or any of the other things they said it would be used for. Arizona's Medical Marijuana Act was nothing more than a sales job."

"I would be surprised if this has a chance of passing," he said. But if it does, Sheahan said he will enforce it, whether he likes it or not.

If passed, the initiative would not affect Arizona's Medical Marijuana Act, Bohlke said. Medical marijuana patients and dispensaries would not be taxed and would not lose any of the rights they have under the MMA.

If passed, the Arizona Department of Health Services would have until July 2015 to come up with regulations and applications for the licensing of retail marijuana stores. Licensing fees would be limited to $1,000.

Local governments would have until October 2015 to come up with new zoning and licensing regulations for marijuana stores.

Once the state or a local government receives an application for a marijuana store, it has 90 days to issue the license or explain in writing why the person is not in compliance with local regulations.

In order to get the initiative on the ballot, Bohlke will have to gather more than 259,000 valid signatures from around the state. He said he's received a lot of encouragement from people, including those who run medical marijuana dispensaries, but the dispensaries are not financially backing his efforts.

"I'm not in the business. I'm an engineer. I work on computers. This is truly a grassroots effort. It's a shoestring operation. I can't guarantee success," he said. "I will say the odds are against me, but 750,000 to a million residents in Arizona say they've used marijuana. Let's see what happens."

People looking for petitions to sign or circulate should contact Safer Arizona through Facebook or by visiting

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013
Article comment by: Renee S.


Posted: Saturday, June 15, 2013
Article comment by: Ida Petty

I am a Cannabis patient. Cannabis is not a drug. There is research in abundance that proves the human body and the Cannabinoids in Cannabis work symbiotic with the human endocannabinoid system. Watch the animals, if you are ever lost in the wilderness, they will not consume anything that is harmful, yet they consume Cannabis.

Posted: Saturday, June 15, 2013
Article comment by: Jay Fleming

It's time we stop wasting law enforcement resources on adults who use marijuana. We need to regulate and tax recreational marijuana like alcohol.

If Sheriff Sheahan thinks a physician is giving medical marijuana to young people who don't meet the requirements of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, report them to the medical board.

Pain is under treated in the America. While working for Dr Venger, I saw many patients reduce their use of opioid pain medications by half or more. That can only be a good thing.

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: An Old Marijuana Fan

Sheriff Sheahan states that "most of the medical marijuana patients are younger". He should do his homework...most cardholders are older people...50's, 60's & 70's, obviously not felons or in prison, most are educated, responsible, respected & trusted citizens & businessmen/women, who have and are paying alot of taxes - and all have strangely managed to keep their sanity despite law enforcement/political BS propaganda that marijuana will eat out our brains. The War on Drugs is stupid, costly, unfair & useless. Legalize and tax marijuana just as poison alcohol is taxed - the state will profit & benefit. Sheahan also said he'd be surprised if the bill has a chance of passing ?? 750,000 to a million Arizona residents said they've used marijuana.....only 259,000 valid signatures are needed! If you're not registered to vote yet, REGISTER NOW, so's you'll be able to sign the petition to legalize marijuana in the State of Arizona when it comes to our area....but remember to SIGN IT CAREFULLY & PROPERLY - one mistake, and the State can disquality the entire page of signatures!!

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: Fantastic news

Wont it be a shame when the crime element is taken away from Marijuana.

All that Federal and State funding for the war on drugs can now be used for real crimes.

Guess what. When everyone can grow a dozen plants. Street dealers are going to disappear. What a shame. Cant waste funding chasing them anymore. After the street dealers disappear. Their connections higher up wont have customers. They will have to go to states that will make them money. The cartel wont have any use for dealing pot in Arizona.

Now the roads will be full of cartel pot going Through Arizona. Hint Hint...Spend the war on drug money busting pass thrus.

All this can happen. Making Marijuana legal for Adults will start a process as we are seeing in Co and Wa. Less crime, rising economy, and for Az the bonus of taking the product away from the cartel and GIVES it to the people.

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: All I have to say is

Thats right ....I left the "ton" off Washington...

Just a plain old typo error....I thought before the english majors came to work I'd fix my error..

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: All I have to say is

Washing and Colorado are PROOF that the earth is not going to swallow up people using Marijuana.

The crime rates have dropped from the reports Ive been reading. The economy is BOOMING in both states. Thousands if jobs have been created by this industry. The tax benefits for the states can only be estimated tho the numbers are frankly staggering from the reports I read.

Satan has not reached up from Hades and pulled anyone into the depths of fire. And finally Granddad can actually eat dinner and hold it down after his meds are given.

Sheruuff Sheehan wouldnt know a disaster if one landed on him. NO take that back....From day one of his rule can be considered an absolute disaster for all of us. The faster he is gone the safer we all will be. I bet the next guy wont need a new fleet of SUV's every year.

I Still want to know how much money he WASTED on the strip club pot bust....One full year of officers getting lap dances on the tax payers dime....two bags of pot and one burnt pipe was all they found?....Explain that Disaster Sheruuuuf?

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: Robert Day


Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: the younger patient

I am so tired of the comments and people judging "young" patients for their use of medical marijuana. I am young, I look normal and like nothing is wrong with me. But crack open my PRIVATE medical records and you will find I have a very rare disease that is slowly debilitating. I only use this medication when I cannot handle the pain anymore. I was once on all kinds of narcotics prescribed by doctors to shut me up because they didn't believe a young person was in the pain I was in, which not only created a downward spiral for my family but also led me to a suicide attempt (side effects of the medication). As soon as I got off of the narcotic pain medication and onto the medical marijuana my life became functioning again. I was against the idea of medical marijuana, but my family talked me into it and I'm glad I finally went that route for pain and symptom management. So before people speak against younger patients, or any patients who use this medicine, don't forget that you can't always see what somebody's body is going through. And secondly, I know more people who are heavily addicted and who have screwed their lives up on narcotic pain medication, but it is ignored because it is a "pill". Remember, pharmaceutical companies do not invent cures, they create customers. One pill always leads to another anymore. And also, every time I go to the clinic to renew my card, I find that I am always the youngest person in there, most of the people are 50+, which was quite surprising, I had expected the majority to be younger than myself. I was way wrong on that, guess that's what I get for making assumptions.

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: vock canyon

I think the tax should be as high as it is on tobacco products. While I don't smoke anything, the tax oppurtunites are limitless! Let's tax this thing until it squeals!

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: About Time

Legalizing marijuana is long overdue. Everyone should be able to smoke marijuana if they choose without the fear of being arrested.

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

A disaster? Is Colorado and the State of Washington now a disaster? No.

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

Now that we have more felons in America for ingesting marijuana, perhaps this will help the same from occurring in the future if passed. The concerns of abuse are the same as anything that can be abused children, dogs, cats, elderly, etc...We as free people ought to be free to choose what we ingest, not government dictating. If we infringe on others rights, we have laws for that already that are not always enforced.

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: Jack A. Lope

ANOTHER WAY to keep it off your record




Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: A Responsible Adult Who Doesn't Want the State Telling Me That I Cannot Use Marijuana

I just signed the petition to let the voters decide. As a 60 year old who has not smoked a joint since college I believe it is the right of adults to decide if they wish to use this plant.

It's too bad that Sheriff Sheahan is against this. It is just another example of him politicizing his office and out of touch he is. Hopefully the initiative will be on the ballot the same time as his position is up for reelection.

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: Warren AO

'"We knew this was coming. Medical marijuana was nothing more than an opening for this," [Sheahan] said. "I think this would be a disaster."'

In what way, precisely? What extensive, peer-reviewed, fact- and reality-based studies, with citations and references, exist to indicate that pot is 'a disaster' for anyone?

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: Bebe Jones

It's about time!

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