PHOENIX, AZ — Marijuana legalization supporters in Arizona say a ballot initiative aimed at allowing adults to purchase and possess marijuana is likely to come in 2016.
While a campaign is currently underway in an attempt to place a similar measure on the ballot in the midterm elections in November, a successful campaign in 2016 is more likely to attract the financial backers needed to place the measure on the ballot.
Organizers of an effort to place a constitutional amendment allowing adults 18 or older to purchase, possess or consume limited amounts of marijuana on the November 2014 ballot say they have collected less than 10,000 of the nearly 300,000 signatures needed by July.
Unlike marijuana law reform campaigns underway in other states for the 2014 elections, the current Arizona drive has no major financial backing to fund signature gathering.
“We still are behind schedule on getting petition signatures,” said Dennis Bohlke, of Safer Arizona, who is leading the effort, which began last June.
Bohlke added that he isn’t yet ready to give up on the 2014 drive.
“We’ve got high hopes,” he said. “But I don’t want to sound unrealistic.”
While the 2014 signature campaign remains underway — volunteers can visit Safer Arizona’s website to volunteer for the campaign, or print out petition sheets — one of the architects of Colorado’s successful 2012 Amendment 64 marijuana legalization effort, which recently saw the first retail sales in the state, says that marijuana legalization in Arizona is very likely to come in 2016.
Marijuana Policy Project Communications Director Mason Tvert says significant funding will be needed to pay for signature gathering for the initiative to qualify for the ballot, and because voter turnout is significantly higher in presidential elections, marijuana legalization efforts are more likely to be successful.
“That’s why we’re doing it in 2016,” Tvert says. “It’s a presidential-election year, and traditionally, the more people who vote, the more support we see for ending marijuana prohibition.”
Arizona is among the six states that the Marijuana Policy Project plans to target in the 2016 elections, joining California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, and Nevada in their quest for marijuana legalization.
Arizona has allowed medical marijuana since 2011, and the first dispensaries in the state opened last year.