Judge considering whether to block legal pot measure

Posted at 5:44 AM, Aug 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-14 16:03:44-04
So many provisions of a law that would legalize recreational marijuana were left off the short description Arizona voters saw when they signed ballot petitions that it should be blocked from the November ballot, opponents told a judge Friday.
The 100-word legal description did not include details about changes to DUI laws, child custody issues, employment law and many others, the attorney for Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy told Maricopa County Superior Court judge Jo Lynn Gentry at a hearing. 
"If you omit principal provisions as interpreted by the court then you cannot be certified for the ballot," attorney Brett Johnson told Gentry. "We have identified 22 principal provisions, your honor, and they have identified five - and one of those is false."
Johnson also pointed to provisions left off the summary that legalize hemp farming, hashish, and allow marijuana retailers to allow smoking on their premises as major problems that he characterized as a "bait and switch."
Lawyers for Proposition 205 said their summary accurately described the principal provisions and was not required to list all changes to the law.
Proponents "are free to draft initiatives that embrace as few or as many subjects as they desire," said Roy Herrera, the attorney for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Ultimately it is up to the voters to decide if the text is too confusing, whether it's overreaching or if it is too complex."
Gentry asked a few pointed questions, then said she would issue a ruling quickly, possibly as early as Monday.
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 new state revenue would go to Arizona public schools and education programs.
But Johnson said that basic description -- regulating marijuana like alcohol and allowing private use -- was not accurate. He noted that one provision allows marijuana bars, something voters weren't told when they signed the petitions.
"This is a travesty of an initiative and there has to be a line that's drawn in the sand," he said.
Herrera said voters are smart enough to figure out complex initiatives and pointed to others that have passed in recent years that were just as complex.
"The initiative is not at all novel in length or complexity," he said.
Election officials on Thursday certified that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted enough valid signatures to make the ballot.