Activists: Pot means BIG business for Arizona

Posted at 7:01 PM, Jan 06, 2016

"Regulate it and tax it" is their battle cry. 

A pro-pot group claims legalizing the sale of the drug would mean big business for Arizona. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol took advantage of a chamber luncheon Wednesday to pass out flyers to many of those going to the event at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.

The group said it has most of the more than 150,000 signatures needed to get an initiative on the ballot to legalize recreational marijuana. Organizers said tax revenue and job creation will be off the charts if the initiative passes.  

"People are consuming marijuana already. This isn't about creating a new substance or a new product in the marketplace," said J.P. Holyoak, chairman for The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "It's already there.  We're simply saying we're better off taxing and regulating it."

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol claims regulating the sale of marijuana would generate tens of millions in revenue for Arizona.  It uses numbers from The Grand Canyon Institute, which estimates the proposed initiative would initially raise $64 million a year for the state, including $51 million for education. Last year it estimated adult marijuana sales would bring in about $40 million for education. Seth Leibsohn from Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy said regardless, it's not worth it.

"If you took a pie chart and looked at the Arizona economy, you would have to take a magnifying glass to find the $40 million which is less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the state budget," he said. "That's just on the income side of the ledger. They never tell you the costs of drop-outs. They never tell you the costs of accidents.  They never tell you the costs of unreimbursed emergency room visits, all of which have increased in Colorado and Washington. It's a net loss to the state of Arizona."

Both Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use.

If the group gathers approximately 14,000 more signatures and the more than 150,000 are valid, Arizona voters can expect to see the initiative on the November ballot.