Legalization wasn’t looking good for Arizona until lawmakers had an innovative idea. Following Governor Doug Ducey’s pledge to give Arizona public school teachers a raise, the state is in tight straits, budget-wise. Legalized weed would provide an untapped source of tax revenue. As of Monday, Democrats and Republicans are working together so that Arizona might source teachers’ raises from legal cannabis. Here’s what we know about recreational marijuana’s newfound support in the House.
The Bill That Would Legalize Recreational Marijuana
In early February, Democratic Representative Mark Cardenas and Republican Representative Todd Clodfelter put forward a bill that would legalize marijuana for those 21 and older. Specifically, Arizonans would be allowed to have up to one ounce on their person and 6 plants. Additionally, the legislation would ban outdoor marijuana smoking.
Arizona has long failed to pass legislation that would legalize cannabis. Medical marijuana only became legal in 2010 after a decade of failed initiatives. The state barely approved it, with only 50.1 percent in support.
In 2016, Arizonans voted on legalizing recreational weed. With 48.7 percent of the vote, the ballot initiative didn’t progress any further. Significantly, four other states legalized recreational marijuana that same year by popular consensus. In short, Arizona isn’t as weed-friendy as other Western states.
The Need to Fund Teachers Might Legalize Weed
This time, it looked like legalization legislation wasn’t going to make it to a popular vote. However, Governor Ducey’s commitment to giving Arizona teachers a raise could be good news for weed.
Across the country, legalizing weed has become one of the best ways to raise revenue. Colorado has built additional housing for the homeless. The state has also given out 600 college scholarships, all thanks to legal weed.
One of the Arizona proposal’s original backers, State Representative Cardenas, is realistic yet hopeful. He told Fox10, “It’s not going to solve the entire issue. I think it’s $680 million that we need to come up with, and this would take care of 150 of that, but this is a significant portion.”
The Phoenix Rep. thinks that the need for teacher raises will spurn a massive change in opinion, politically. Cardenas explains, “I think the appetite of the state, of the governor, of the legislature, is to find the money we need for the raises.”
Moneyed Interests Oppose Legalization
Pharmaceutical companies are doing all they can to slow legalization in Arizona. Specifically, Insys Therapeutics donated $500,000 to the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in 2016, an organization vocally campaigning against Prop 205, which would legalize recreational marijuana.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is fighting anti-cannabis propaganda. Chair J.P. Holyoak explains, “We hope that every Arizonan understands that Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy is now a complete misnomer. […] Any time an ad airs against Prop. 205, the voters should know that it was paid for by highly suspect Big Pharma actors.”
Perhaps not everyone knew who paid for the ads. The proposition to legalize recreational weed failed to pass shortly after that. Just months later, the DEA approved Syndros, a synthetic THC drug produced by Insys Therapeutics.
Now that Arizona might source teachers’ raises from legal cannabis, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy are ramping up their campaign. Chairwoman Sheila Polk commented, “The suggestion out there that somehow legalizing a substance that we know directly hurts kids in order to help teachers is nonsense, and I hope the teachers would be appalled as well.”
The Governor and legislators need to come up with $680 million in order to give teachers a raise. Legalizing recreational marijuana, which has provided much-needed tax revenue in surrounding states, would ease financial pressures by about $150 million. Hopefully, marijuana and teacher advocates can get the message to voters before the next ballot initiative.