KINGMAN – With the general election less than four weeks out, the stakes are rising over legalization of recreational marijuana use in Arizona with each side ponying up about $3 million, an advocate for Proposition 205 said Tuesday.
Television ads supporting legalization are telling voters they don’t want to pass up an estimated $55 million in marijuana sales tax that would go to public schools and a chance to reduce criminal activity of drug cartels.
Opposing ads cite studies that show increased marijuana use by teenagers in Colorado, higher traffic fatalities and false promises of additional funding for public education.
Colorado is among several states that have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults, and is being used as a model by both pro- and anti-marijuana groups.
“We have marijuana. We know that it’s here and it’s not going away,” Adam Kinsey, campaign manager for Prop 205, told a packed room at Diana’s Cellar Door and Wine Bar.
“If we triple the amount of money we spend on the war on drugs, it’s still going to be here. Let’s deal with marijuana in a fashion that would root out the cartels. It’s not ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to marijuana, but how are we going to deal with it,” Kinsey said.
Kinsey laid out the following benefits of Prop 205 during his Power Point presentation:
• Create a 15 percent excise sales tax that will be used to implement and enforce regulations. Any additional tax would be allocated to the Department of Education for school construction, maintenance and operation (40 percent); Department of Education for full-day kindergarten programs (40 percent); and Department of Health for public education regarding the harms of alcohol, marijuana and other substances (20 percent).
• Allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess and consume up to one ounce of marijuana and to grow six plants in an enclosed, secured portion of their residence.
• Allow a limited number of licensed marijuana retailers, capped at 10 percent of the number of liquor store licenses, which would be fewer than 180.
• Establish the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to oversee businesses related to the marijuana industry, including growers, product manufacturers, distributers and retailers.
• Provide local authority to impose limits on where and when marijuana businesses are allowed to operate.
Kinsey said marijuana regulation works in states such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska and in Washington, D.C. Colorado had more than $1 billion in marijuana sales last year, and that’s $1 billion that didn’t go into the cartels’ pockets, he said.
“So we’re headed in the right direction,” the pot proponent said. “It requires an ID. Your 17-year-old in high school doesn’t need an ID. Ask any high school kid. It’s easier to buy marijuana than to buy alcohol.”
It’s safer for communities and less addictive than alcohol or tobacco, Kinsey added.
“People say, ‘What about the children?’ I say, ‘Damn right, what about the children.’ That’s why we need (Prop) 205.”
One member of the audience called it “schizophrenic” that marijuana is legal in our nation’s capital, yet DEA keeps it as a Schedule 1 drug on the same level of opiates and possession is still a federal crime.
Marijuana legalization is coming, whether it’s this year with Prop 205 or in upcoming election years, Kinsey maintained.
“It’s evolving, just like gay marriage. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support marijuana,” he said. “This might be the most palatable version you’re going to see. That’s what I tell my Republican and conservative friends. It’s coming.”