Arizona group readies filing for rec cannabis legalization initiative

The first salvo in the recreational marijuana legalization fight for the next election cycle looks set to be fired Thursday in Phoenix.

Safer Arizona 2018, a grassroots activism group, plans to file paperwork with the secretary of state’s office to place an adult-use cannabis legalization initiative on the 2018 statewide ballot, the organization announced Wednesday.

The group must collect at least 150,642 signatures of registered Arizona voters between Thursday and July 2018 for the initiative to make the ballot.

Spokesman Dave Wisniewski said he is “absolutely confident” the group will reach that goal. Safer Arizona 2018 already has roughly 300 volunteers ready to circulate petitions and gather signatures, he added.

“We’ve got people, we’ve got paper, we’ve got the initiative, we’ve got some funds, and we’ve got 16 months,” Wisniewski said. “We believe this is going to be our year.”

Safer Arizona 2018’s initiative is very different from Proposition 205, the Arizona legalization measure that failed narrowly last year.

The biggest distinction for businesses is that the initiative being filed Thursday has no license caps. Prop 205 would have allowed for only about 150 recreational marijuana retail permits, most of which would have gone to existing MMJ dispensaries. Safer Arizona’s measure has no such limits, meaning the resulting market would more closely resemble Colorado or Oregon.

The group isn’t working with any national organizations such as Marijuana Policy Project, which helped finance the Prop 205 campaign.

MPP chief Rob Kampia said his staff has not read the initiative. MPP may support it “in spirit,” Kampia said, but his organization won’t contribute money to the effort.

“It’s just the wrong election,” Kampia said, predicting any Arizona rec legalization measure in 2018 would fail because of lower voter turnout than in presidential election years.

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