Arizona: Should Marijuana Be Legalized for Recreational Use?
Many Arizonans are wondering, should marijuana be legalized for recreational use? While others are wondering, when is marijuana going to be legal? Over the past two decades, as laws have gradually begun to change, old stereotypes and beliefs about cannabis have shifted more rapidly. With many medical marijuana businesses being deemed essential during the pandemic, it’s become clear that for so many, marijuana and its derivatives–such as CBD–are medicine. However, continuing to ignore the reality of mainstream usage can be a costly mistake. Millions of Americans utilize the plant for a variety of reasons, including recreational use. A Gallup poll conducted in July of 2019 found around 12% or nearly 40 million Americans smoke marijuana. Those rates of use are only for smoking flower. Add in additional product types such as vapes, edibles, concentrates, tinctures, creams, and CBD derivatives, and the numbers increase even more dramatically.A 2019 estimate of the total U.S. demand for cannabis, including both legal and black-market sales, was $83.6 billion U.S. dollars. In 2020, Americans are placing orders for various cannabis products approximately every 8 seconds, and legal sales are on track to rise by 40%. Both medical and recreational retail sales in the United States are on pace to eclipse $15 billion by the end of 2020, an increase of approximately 40% over 2019 sales figures, according to exclusive projections from a 2020 report from Marijuana Business Daily. Total legal U.S. sales are estimated to rise as high as $37 billion by 2024. Capturing the revenue gap between legal and black-market sales represents unprecedented opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs, and the American people as a whole.According to a Pew Research Center survey from November 2019, two-thirds of Americans favor marijuana legalization, reflecting a steady increase in public support. Public opinion on legalization was virtually the opposite two decades ago: In 2000, 63% of Americans said that the use of marijuana should be illegal. Today, fewer than 1 in 10 people believe it should be illegal under any circumstances. That’s quite a shift in attitude in a relatively short time period.
The Arizona Marijuana Legalization Bill - What’s at Stake
This year has been a rollercoaster ride for everyone, and the elections will be no different. Despite all the focus on the Presidential Election, there are some very critical decisions to be made by Arizonans about our state. For instance, the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Bill, which appears on the ballot as Prop 207. Whether Arizona will become the 12th state to legalize adult recreational use will be answered by Arizona voters. This bill’s passage will permit adults at least 21 years of age to sell, possess, and consume up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes. A No on Prop 207 would result in Arizona’s thriving cannabis industry remaining medically legal but still illegal for recreational use.Yes on Prop 207 would not only move Arizona forward on the question of cannabis but legalizing recreational use would generate millions in additional tax revenues to benefit all Arizonans. Legalization creates an abundance of new industry opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs, and established enterprises, creating new jobs, products, and ancillary industries. The legalization also increases the safety and quality of products through strict labeling and dosage standards, which remains unregulated for cannabis sold on the black market.Worth considering is that all legal sales are subject to the state's 5.6% sales tax. It’s estimated that the State’s $400 million in sales in 2018 generated $22.4 million in revenue, plus there are additional city and county taxes that range from 0.25% to 4%, medical cardholder fees, and renewals.If Prop 207 is approved, Arizona laws will change to allow adults at least 21 years of age to sell, possess, and consume up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes, bringing recreational markets out of the shadows and into the light of legitimacy. If passed, the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Bill will result in:
- Legalizing the sale, possession, and consumption of one ounce of marijuana (of which 5 grams can be concentrate) for adults at least 21 years old.
- An estimated $300 million in new revenue annually to fund community colleges, public safety, public health programs, and infrastructure.
- Ban smoking cannabis in public places like restaurants and open spaces like sidewalks and parks.
- Generate more than $30 million annually for addiction prevention, substance treatment, teen suicide prevention, mental health programs, and justice reinvestment projects.
- The option for people previously convicted of low-level marijuana charges to have their criminal records sealed, which can improve job opportunities, especially for minorities and women.
Legalizing marijuana in Arizona will capture much-needed revenue and tax dollars and provide opportunities and funding to improve our local economy, communities, and the state. It will also improve society by easing the burden on law enforcement and prisons, ending disproportionate punishment, and creating more job opportunities for all, especially minorities and women. As industry legal professionals, we continue to monitor developments closely and will continue providing updates beyond Election Day.