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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: You’d have to be high to oppose legalization

The nationwide campaign to legalize marijuana is clearly gaining steam. When Colorado and Washington legalized in 2012, they breached a profound taboo in American society and opened the doors for other states to start to follow suit — that is, assuming that their willingness to let their states be lab rats for the nation didn’t cause massive societal breakdown.

Of course, legalization has done no such thing. Instead, as predicted, it has created tens of millions of dollars of tax revenue for Colorado and Washington, which is earmarked for use in K-12 education, among other things. According to The Huffington Post, legalization in Colorado has spurred economic growth and profoundly reduced incarceration, two benefits that Arizona desperately needs.

In 2014, Oregon (which failed to pass a similar law in 2012), Alaska and the District of Columbia joined the party and legalized recreational use of marijuana.

This reflects a rapidly shifting public perception of the plant. According to a Pew Research Center study, 63 percent of Republican millennials support legalizing the drug. Support is even higher among Democrats, of course. Americans on the whole consider alcohol to be more dangerous than marijuana for one’s health (a notion supported by medical science).

An even greater number of states — perhaps more than five — will vote on ballot initiatives for marijuana legalization modeled after Washington’s and Colorado’s in 2016. Arizona will likely be among those states.

This should come as no surprise because, despite the strong Republican bent of the state, Arizonans, like Alaskans, have a deep libertarian streak. It is deeply disappointing that no state legislature has managed to pass marijuana legalization given the massive success it has been for states whose citizens legalized, but given the geriatric and cowardly natures of many of our politicians, ballot initiatives are clearly the way to go — especially in Arizona, where we would otherwise have no hope of legalization in the near future.

On Friday, supporters in Arizona filed a ballot proposal with the Secretary of State that would establish a law largely modeled after Colorado’s, which is good news because it is generally considered the more liberal of the two original states’ laws.

“Under the initiative, adults 21 and older could possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes without obtaining licenses, as long as the plants are in a secure area,” according to The Arizona Republic. Moreover, the law would establish a 15 percent tax on the drug to fund full-day kindergarten and public health initiatives.

This ballot proposal represents an enormous step forward for a movement that, just weeks ago, had splintered and was in danger of falling into utter disarray due to infighting in the medical marijuana dispensary business.

“Even if two campaigns could each pull in enough donor money to pay for the hundreds of thousands of signatures that would need to be gathered, the presence of two similar measures on the ballot would probably mean trouble for both,” writes Ray Stern for Phoenix New Times on April 8, highlighting the importance of the reconciliation between the competing factions.

With this major disaster averted, collecting the 150,642 signatures necessary is the last hurdle to getting legalization on the ballot and should not be a problem.

However, there are still substantial challenges for this important movement to overcome to become a reality.

“Polls show marijuana legalization support runs 50-50 in Arizona, at best,” Stern writes. “The 2010 medical-marijuana initiative put on the ballot by the MPP passed by a mere 4,341 votes out of nearly 1.7 million cast.”

Given the rate at which support for legalization is increasing — and that Democratic voters will be out in greater numbers than in 2014, when every initiative, even in deep-red Alaska, outperformed its polling numbers and passed — I suspect that the “yes” side can pick up the percentage or two it needs to get this initiative passed by November 2016.

Arizona cannot afford to let this opportunity pass it by. The increase in tax revenues, specifically for health and education spending, and, perhaps even more important, the much-needed reduction in incarceration for something most Americans recognize is less harmful than alcohol would be a boon to the state, and I trust that we will stand true to our libertarian streak and make marijuana legalization law.

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Martin Forstrom is a senior studying sociology and Latin American studies. Follow him on Twitter.

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