Bill proposes legalizing marijuana, but issue may be left to voters

Referendum in 2016 may be more likely route to legalization, experts say

An Arizona lawmaker has introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state, according to the State Press. The bill would make it legal to buy recreational marijuana from approved dispensaries and also permit people to grow a limited number of plants for personal use. The bill is part of a broader national push to relax marijuana laws. Despite some support for the legislative proposal, experts say a 2016 ballot initiative may be a more likely route towards legalization in Arizona.

Budget shortfall

The bill, HB 2007, would make it legal for anyone in Arizona over 21 years of age to grow a maximum of five marijuana plants on their private property for personal use. The law would also permit adults to buy marijuana for recreational use through an approved dispensary. Marijuana purchased for recreational use would be subject to a state tax of $50 per ounce.

The lawmaker behind the bill says that legalizing marijuana will help make up for an expected $500 million budget shortfall this year. Taxing marijuana is expected to net the state $48 million in extra revenue, half of which would be earmarked for the general fund, while the rest would go to programs like education and drug treatment. Under the bill, smoking marijuana in public and driving under the influence of marijuana would still be illegal.

Ballot initiative

The bill, however, will have a difficult time getting passed given the current political climate. Instead, advocates for marijuana legalization say a 2016 ballot initiative may have a better chance of succeeding. That initiative would allow voters to decide for themselves whether to legalize marijuana in the state. Currently, polls show 51 percent of voters in the state support legalization.

The problem with the ballot initiative, however, is that it makes it very difficult for lawmakers to address problems with the initiative afterward, according to ABC 15 News. The lawmaker behind the current bill to legalize marijuana points out that if the initiative passes, lawmakers will be largely unable to modify it afterwards. A bill that is passed by lawmakers, on the other hand, can be more easily modified if problems with the law later become apparent.

Drug charges

Despite initiatives underway to relax Arizona's drug laws, it seems unlikely that marijuana prohibition will end in the state anytime soon. People who are charged with possession or related drug laws currently face severe punishments that can lead to a criminal record. Such a record can become particularly burdensome when it comes to finding a job or even applying for scholarships.

Being charged with a drug offense is extremely serious and needs to be treated as such. A criminal defense attorney can assist anybody who is currently facing a drug charge understand what rights and options they may have in responding to such charges.

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