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Groups argue for, against legalization of recreational marijuana in Arizona

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

PHOENIX – November’s general election will bring another attempt at legalizing recreational marijuana in Arizona after it was narrowly rejected four years ago.

Chad Campbell, leader of the Smart and Safe Arizona Initiative, hopes to “take away the black market” with Prop 207.

He describes the legislation as the strictest measurement in the country when it comes to banning public smoking.

“This isn’t going away and what we are doing is — we’re actually going to try and replace that black market with something that is safe, something that generates money for the state and makes a more responsible use of the product for people who choose to use it,” Campbell, whose group wrote Prop 207, explained.

Prop 207 permits anyone 21 or older to have up to 1 ounce of cannabis. As a result of the retail cannabis sales, the legalization of marijuana in Arizona is said to generate $300 million annually in new tax revenue to fund community colleges, public safety, public health programs and roads and highways.

With safety in mind, Prop 207’s language bans smoking marijuana in public places like restaurants and open spaces like sidewalks and parks.

“We’ve also put in place childproof packaging, labeling and we’ve banned marketing to anyone under 21 years of age,” Campbell said.

Despite that, a group known as Arizonans for Health and Public Safety has vocalized major opposition to Prop 207. The group cites concerns including teens having more access to pot, dangerous roads and protected legislation.

“Prop 207 is 17 pages of sweeping changes to Arizona law that will be virtually impossible to change,” Lisa James, who leads the group, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “If this was simply about decriminalization or legalization that could be done in a page.”

Arizonans for Health and Public Safety are urging voters to vote no on the prop because they believe it is about creating a marijuana industry that includes growing it and selling it.

“Proposition 207 places no limits on commercial cultivation,” James said.

If passed, the marijuana industry is expected to build off of the medical marijuana industry already in place. Prop 207 gives the Arizona Department of Health Services the authority to oversee the safe sale of marijuana, including testing and inspecting products sold.

The passage of Prop 207 would also permit those with marijuana convictions to petition the courts to have their records expunged. The Smart and Safe Arizona Initiative believes it would allow police to focus on hard drugs and unclogs the justice system which they say it ‘currently backlogged with minor offenses’.

Citing kindergarten through 8th grade education funding as a priority, Arizonans for Health and Public Safety argues the income tax revenue collected from legalizing marijuana won’t be what it is projected to be.

“If you look at our neighboring states, the expenses have been far greater,” James said.

New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Mississippi are also voting on ballot initiatives regarding legalization marijuana.

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