Arizonans Fight Ballot Bid to Legalize Pot

     PHOENIX (CN) — The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry says a ballot measure to legalize marijuana is “misleading” and creates a “substantial danger of fraud, confusion and unfairness,” according to a lawsuit filed in state court.
     The chamber, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy chairman Seth Leibsohn and 11 other plaintiffs sued to have the marijuana-legalization initiative removed from Arizona’s November ballot. The lawsuit was filed July 11 in Maricopa County.
     Other plaintiffs include Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Yvapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, and state Rep. Paul Boyer, who chairs the House Education Committee and is a member of the Health and County and Municipal Affairs committees.
     The plaintiffs say the Yes on I-08-2016 claims to have gathered 258,582 signatures in support of the ballot initiative, but the petition summary does not mention its “substantive provisions or the direct or indirect impact on other existing Arizona laws.
     The summary reads: “The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act: (1) establishes a 15 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, from which the revenue will be allocated to public health and education; (2) allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana; (3) creates a system in which licensed businesses can produce and sell marijuana; (4) establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana; and (5) provides local governments with the authority to regulate and limit marijuana businesses.”
     Lead defendant Secretary of State Michele Reagan hasn’t completed her review of the petition, which the Chamber claims is invalid due to misleading information.
     The petition says it would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol, but the Chamber says it would create many new laws and regulations dissimilar to current alcohol regulation.
     The Chamber says the petition’s “provisions embrace far too many subjects than allowed for a single ballot initiative,” its language is “confusing and misleading,” and that it violates the Arizona Constitution’s Revenue Source Rule.
     In fact, the Chamber says the initiative is so confusing that its supporters can’t agree on its impact — the initiative’s attorney claims it does not allow local unit to ban home production, while its political director say it does, according to the lawsuit.
     The Chamber also says the initiative seeks to eliminate penalties against driving while having THC metabolites or “components of marijuana” in the driver’s body, which runs counter to the state’s law against driving under the influence of drugs.
     The petition language claims it would not impact current state laws against driving under the influence of drugs. But the Chamber says the language amounts to fraud and would endanger public safety by eliminating prosecutions of people who drive while high on marijuana, rather than allowing the state to establish a legal threshold, as with alcohol.
     The Chamber says the initiative also would place a high burden of proof on employers to prove a worker is high before taking disciplinary action, unlike a similar law in Colorado supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, where employers can ban its use.
     According to the Chamber, the initiative would impact Arizona’s public benefits, landlord rights, family laws, military personnel, and does not enable local units to regulate marijuana businesses.
     It also says the initiative is confusing and does not include a funding mechanism as required by the Arizona Constitution, and only would transfer money from the state’s Medical Marijuana Fund to be repaid at a later date.
     In an email statement, Yes on I-08-2016 chairman J.P. Holyoak said, “Our opponents have demonstrated that they are willing to do and say just about anything to maintain the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. This lawsuit is simply a desperate attempt to deprive Arizona voters of the right to vote on this ballot question.
     “Our opponents are going to great lengths to continue punishing adults for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol. They are doing everything in their power to keep marijuana production and sales in an uncontrolled underground market. Cartels and gangs are probably quietly cheering them on right now, as they are the ones who would benefit most if this lawsuit is successful.”
     The Chamber and its co-plaintiffs says the petition sheets are invalid, contain inadequate title and text, and the proposal lacks self-funding, as required by the state constitution.
     They want the court to order Reagan to invalidate the petition’s signatures, declare that the initiative violates the Arizona Constitution and bar Reagan from placing the measure on the November ballot in Arizona or tallying vote totals if a vote is held.
     Phoenix attorney Brett W. Johnson of Snell and Wilmer represents the plaintiffs, and said a hearing is set for August.

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