ARIZONA: The group that helped get Arizona a medical marijuana law in 2010 is now gearing up for a 2016 ballot measure to allow any adult to use the drug for recreational purposes.
Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Tuesday his group is buoyed by the announcement last month by the Obama administration that the Department of Justice will not try to void voter-approved laws in Colorado and Washington making recreational use of the drug legal. That, he said, paves the way for expansion of the concept into 10 other states, including Arizona.
Tvert, a Scottsdale native, acknowledged that the original medical marijuana law was approved here by only a narrow margin. But he said attitudes toward the drug are changing.
More to the point of 2016, Tvert said, the dynamics will be different three years from now.
“It will be a presidential election year and we tend to see a much larger turnout, including a lot of younger voters and others who tend to be supportive of ending marijuana prohibition,’’ he said.
But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery promised to do what he can to kill the initiative.
“We will not get caught flat-footed and late to the issue again,’’ he said, a reference to the fact there was no organized opposition to the 2010 medical marijuana measure. Montgomery also promised to work to “counter the misinformation relied up by the Marijuana Policy Project to mislead the public about the nature and impact of drug legalization.’’
The initiative envisions treating marijuana like alcohol: Regulated by the state, available to adults and sold only at state-licensed retailers. Tvert said it could piggy-back on the medical marijuana laws which have so far allowed nearly 100 state-regulated but privately owned dispensaries to open.
He also said the Colorado law could provide a good model. It permits Colorado residents to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at any one time; those who live elsewhere can obtain up to a quarter ounce.
What spurred the move is that Department of Justice memo providing “guidance’’ to federal prosecutors on the issue of whether to pursue retailers in states which allow the recreational use of the drug.
In a four-page memo, James Cole, the deputy federal attorney general, acknowledged that sale and possession of the drug remains a federal felony. But Cole told prosecutors they should, in essence, leave those issues to the states when only small amounts are involved.