Judge to hear challenge of marijuana legalization initiative

Posted at 5:02 AM, Aug 12, 2016

Opponents of a campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona head to court Friday in an effort to get a judge to bar the initiative from the November ballot.

Attorneys for Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy argue in part that the citizen's initiative should be blocked because the 100-word explanation on petition sheets doesn't fully explain the effects of the proposed legalization. They also say it doesn't have a legal funding mechanism.

The suit was brought by 13 individuals and groups including Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

Backers call the lawsuit a desperate attempt to keep voters from having the right to vote to legalize small amounts of marijuana.

Election officials on Thursday certified that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

Opponents of the initiative argue in their lawsuit that the 100-word explanation on petition sheets doesn't fully explain the effects of the proposed legalization and that it doesn't contain a legal funding mechanism.

"This is about the integrity of the initiative process," Polk said after an initial hearing last month. "And there's certain constitutional provisions and certain statutes that provide the framework that are focused on making sure voters understand what they are signing and understand what they are ultimately voting on."

Under the measure, adults age 21 and older could carry up to one ounce of marijuana and consume it privately. Adults could also cultivate up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed space and possess the marijuana produced by the plants. No more than a dozen plants would be allowed in a single residence.

The system would regulate pot in a way proponents say is similar to alcohol, with a 15 percent tax on all retail marijuana sales. Most of the revenue from that tax would go to Arizona schools and education programs.

Polk and other opponents argue that the summary doesn't adequately explain all the effects of the measure, including its effect on laws regulating driving while impaired. That means the approximately 250,000 people who signed petitions seeking to put the measure on the November ballot weren't given enough information to understand all its consequences.

Kory Langhofer, the attorney for the proponents, calls the arguments legally deficient.

"Sheila Polk and company say that the 100-word summary was misleading because it didn't describe everything in a 30-page initiative," he said last month. "Of course it doesn't describe everything -- it's a hundred words summarizing 30 pages."