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Legalized marijuana could again appear on Arizona ballots

Jerome Waite, known by his spiritual name Rasfia, smokes a marijuana cigarette, during a rally to support the legalization of marijuana on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 24, 2017. Waite was later arrested. Smoking pot in public remains illegal everywhere in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

LISTEN: Alex Gentry, Chairman of the Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Political Action Committee

PHOENIX — The issue of legalizing marijuana for personal use could again appear on Arizona ballots when voters statewide head to the polls in 2018.

The Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Political Action Committee has started collecting signatures to get the measure on next November’s ballot.

As of Monday, the group said it has about 3,200 of the needed 150,000 signatures to put the matter to a vote.

The group would like to remove felony penalties for small amounts of the drug and give nonviolent offenders convicted on marijuana-related charges a chance to apply for freedom.

The group also wants medical marijuana patients to be able to grow their own plants, alterations of the state’s DUI laws and several other reforms.

A recent effort to legalize marijuana in Arizona, Proposition 205, failed to pass in the recent election.

The argument over the measure was divisive from the word go.

Shortly after Prop. 205 was approved for the ballot, opponents sued to remove it. They said voters received incomplete information about it, among other reasons.

Several local officials opposed it and the campaign received millions in donations, including $500,000 from Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson.

If Prop. 205 would have passed, money from the drug’s sale would have gone to the state’s school system. But even that proved controversial.

“The [Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee] estimates that we’re looking at about $55 million per year directly to education and that’s a net number,” Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Chairman J.P. Holyoaks told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes recently.

However, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who opposed Prop. 205, said Holyoaks’ math left out several factors, such as paying for what would have been the Department of Marijuana and funding parts of other agencies. Only then would the remainder of the funds be sent to schools.

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