Arizona Prop 207 is the Arizona marijuana legalization poll which took place on the same day as the US presidential election in the State of Arizona in 2020.
In addition to voting on their preferred choice of president and a number of other issues, Arizona residents were asked whether they approved the legalization of the consumption and possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes within the state.
The results have come back and – in a move which mirrors attitudes across America – Arizonans have returned a resounding “yes”.
So, what does this mean for local people? What does it mean for the cannabis industry in Arizona? And how will the Proposition 207 poll be put into practice?
Here’s everything you need to know:
What is Arizona Proposition 207?
Prop 207 was the Arizona marijuana poll, also known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act.
On the same ballot as their choice for president in 2020, all Arizona residents were given the choice of a yes/ no question on Prop 207. The proposition stated that:
Adults over the age of 21 would legally be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and five grams of concentrates
Adults could grow six marijuana plants
A system of licensed recreational dispensaries would be established in addition to the current system within the state
In addition to the legalization of marijuana, Proposition 207 also asked whether:
People who had been convicted of felonies like marijuana possession (up to a certain quantity) or paraphernalia possession could petition to have their records expunged
A social equity ownership program should be instituted, the goal of which would be to encourage people from communities who had suffered unfairly from the previous laws to get into the legal marijuana business
If the measure were to be passed, legal marijuana sales could begin in Arizona as early as March 2021.
In short, Prop 207 is potentially the biggest story in Arizona cannabis news since the original passing of the 2010 laws (Prop 203) which legalized marijuana for medical use in the state.
What was the result of Proposition 207?
The result of the latest poll in Arizona is in and the state has answered a resounding “yes” to Proposition 207!
The trends were clear from a fairly early point. Even when only three-quarters of the votes had been counted, the numbers were showing “yes” as the likely answer – with support which never really dropped below the 60% figure after that point. The final tally was:
Yes – 1 919 725 votes, 60%
No – 1 282 283 votes, 40%
Didn’t Arizona vote on this already?
Yes, Arizona already had a vote as to whether or not to legalize recreational use of marijuana back in 2016. That was Proposition 205.
The result of the vote on Prop 205 was a “no”, but not by much – 51.3% of Arizonans saying “no” and 48.7% saying “yes”.
Asked why this vote returned such a substantially different result to the last only four years ago, various commentators and people in the marijuana industry have suggested a number of different reasons:
Other ballot questions – one of the suggested reasons was the simultaneous question of Proposition 208 – the idea that people who earned over $250 000 (or $500 000 for a married couple) should pay more in income tax to fund public education – rightly drew a lot of media attention.
Changing opinions and wider proof of no harm – another pointed out that opinions on cannabis are trending upwards across the country. Despite numerous claims to the contrary, the legalization of cannabis for either recreational or medical reasons has yet to lead to a situation where young people, in particular, use marijuana as a “gateway” to progress onto more dangerous drug use.
If Proposition 205 had passed back in 2016, Arizona would have been leading the way in terms of marijuana legalization. Now that Proposition 207 has passed though, the state is at least part of the first wave.
What was the reaction from the cannabis industry?
As might be expected, the reaction of the cannabis industry was jubilant. The Arizona marijuana vote came about in large part through the actions of the local industry. In fact, the more than $5 million that the “yes” campaign raised came entirely from the flourishing local industry.
The campaign manager for Pro 207, Stacy Pearson, commented she thought that, “the big message is that the war on drugs is a failure and Arizona voters know it.”
This is an important point. Because of the nine people who are arrested in Arizona every day for the possession of marijuana, 90% are booked into jail. It’s also been pointed out that a disproportionate number of those people who are arrested are black – black people are in fact three times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people.
It’s to be hoped that marijuana legalization in Arizona – and the attendant measures which the proposition included, such as the ability for people to apply to expunge possession charges and the social equity program – may at least go some way towards beginning to alter the balance here.
What was the opposition to the proposition like?
For the cannabis legalization question in Arizona, even getting onto the ballot was not guaranteed.
An initial challenge was brought by a group called “Arizonans for Health and Public Safety”, which claimed the nearly half a million people who signed the initial petition has been “misled” by the language used. When it eventually reached the State Supreme Court though, this challenge didn’t last long. It was thrown out unanimously.
Overall, the opposition to Proposition 207 raised a little less than a fifth of the money – around $800 000 – as the “yes” campaign. The vast majority of these funds came from a very small number of ultra-wealthy conservatives via the blandly-titled Center for Arizona Policy group.
Again, arguments that marijuana legalization in Arizona will lead to large numbers of young people using cannabis and progressing onto dangerous drugs have not been borne out in other states where marijuana is already legal.
How will Arizona enact the prop 207 poll?
Making Prop 207 a reality within the state certainly isn’t going to be a smooth road for Arizona. There are definite challenges ahead. Not least those involved in making sure that:
1) All communities benefit from the new laws equally
While Prop 207 does include some measures designed to begin to balance out the racially-biased impact of current marijuana laws, many people have commented that it doesn’t go far enough.
Certainly, in other states where legalization has happened, it hasn’t been a magic pill to cure all of the unfairness of the previous system:
- For instance, marijuana offenses in other “legalized” states continue to be highly unbalanced along racial lines.
- Also, many people who might otherwise choose to start working within the industry in other “legalized” states are barred from doing so by previous convictions.
Arizona’s authorities will need to work hard to ensure that the state doesn’t go down the same path.
There is also the question of how the “social equity ownership” portion of the bill is to be enacted. These licenses should be allocated to communities who have suffered disproportionately from current laws. However, the way this is to be decided is still open to question. Methods used in other states have been found to be unconstitutional.
Plus, these might end up being the only new licenses issued due to constraints on the number of dispensaries which can exist. New business owners will also be up against competitors who are already established.
2) The ability to expunge records is clear and easy
For people who have been convicted of minor marijuana offenses, the ability to apply to have their records expunged could be a life-changing one.
But it has been pointed out – chiefly by the LUCHA (the Living United for Change in Arizona group) – that while the proposition does say that people should be able to ask to have their record expunged, there is no requirement that the state makes it clear or easy to do so.
3) Cannabis tax money gets to where it needs to go
The new measures in Prop 207 levy a 16% excise tax on marijuana on top of the sales tax already in place. This is expected to generate a revenue of somewhere between $200 million and $300 million for the state and local municipalities every year.
There is also the fact that without the need to spend time and money prosecuting nonviolent crimes like marijuana possession, law enforcement agencies can more profitably direct their attentions elsewhere.
This all very positive. But the LUCHA again points out that cannabis tax money is planned to be allocated toward police and fire departments. Some is intended to be allocated to state schools. But, the LUCHA argues, not enough.
4) Local authorities accommodate the new law
There are some concerns that local authorities may not properly enact the new laws.
For example, the town of Gilbert recently voted to ban new marijuana dispensaries from opening within town limits. The idea seems to have been to limit the marijuana industry’s presence. All it did, however, was ensure that the existing businesses in the area would never have any competition.
With marijuana dispensaries and other businesses in the cannabis industry already having a significant head start on new companies which will open when they get a license from Prop 207, there’s a concern that this may make it difficult for newer companies to compete.
5) Medical patients are kept properly supplied
This was one of the initial concerns which the industry sought to tackle early on. With other states which have already lead the way in marijuana legalization having found that keeping both recreational and medicinal users supplied was an issue, producers in Arizona have already taken steps to ensure that won’t happen here.
The advantage that Arizona has is in the existing strength and maturity of its medical marijuana market as a whole. There is a much deeper supply chain, for instance.
This should mean that, given the minor hiccups you might expect from any new system, there are expected to be no issues for medical patients in the states when the new laws come in.
What about marijuana legalization across the US?
Following Proposition 207, Arizona joins the other 11 other states which have approved recreational cannabis use for adults.
Close neighbors Colorado, California and Nevada have already approved legalization for recreational use. Meanwhile, states as far away as New Jersey, Montana and South Dakota also passed legalization initiatives at the same time as they voted in the 2020 presidential elections.
Across America, there is increasingly widespread acceptance that penalizing – and making a felony of – the use of a drug which brings relief to the lives of so many simply does not makes sense.
While there are challenges on the road to ensuring that Arizona Proposition 207 is brought into law in a way which is fair and seeks to right the historical injustices which marijuana laws led to, Prop 207’s passing might be the first step on the road to a fairer future for huge numbers of people in the Sunset State.