Pubdate: Fri, 26 Aug 2016
Source: Sun, The (Yuma, AZ)
Copyright: 2016 The Sun
Author: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services


PHOENIX - Foes of legalized marijuana asked the Arizona Supreme Court 
late Thursday to keep voters from ever getting to decide the issue.

Attorney Brett Johnson wants the justices to rule that Maricopa 
County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry got it wrong when she 
ruled last week that a 2015 change in state law precludes outsiders - 
including initiative opponents - from challenging the legal 
sufficiency of the ballot measure. Gentry said that makes all of the 
alleged flaws Johnson said are in the petitions legally irrelevant.

Johnson also warned the justices that if they refuse to overturn 
Gentry's ruling and allow Proposition 205 to be placed on the 
November ballot that it would have dire implications.

"Should the (initiative) committee be allowed to push through such a 
profoundly flawed ballot measure, future initiative proponents are 
likely to use the same - or worse - tactics to deceive Arizona 
voters," he wrote. "Under the trial court's interpretation of the 
law, there is no recourse for such fraud," Johnson continued.

In his own filing Thursday, attorney Roy Herrera, representing 
initiative proponents, denied there was any fraud in the way the 
measure was crafted and presented to the public.

More to the point, he told the justices that Gentry was correct in 
ruling that the law does not allow initiative foes to seek to have 
measures kept from the ballot once the secretary of state has 
concluded it meets all the legal requirements. And he urged the high 
court not to intercede.

"The court should recognize this lawsuit for what it is - nothing 
more than an extended disquisition on the (challengers') ideological 
and political opposition" to the idea of legalizing the recreational 
use of marijuana, Herrera wrote, saying their case is "built on a 
catalog of politicized, specious - and in some instances - frivolous 
arguments that stand in diametric conflict with the Arizona 
Constitution and controlling precedents of Arizona courts."

And Herrera said if initiative foes are opposed to the measure they 
should take their case to the public and not try to have the process 
short-circuited by the Supreme Court.

Johnson, however, suggested that it would be wrong for them to 
sidestep the issue and let the voters have the final say. He told the 
justices they have an obligation to "prevent fraud on the electorate."

What the court decides will determine if Arizonans get a chance to 
vote on the measure which would allow any adult to possess and use up 
to an ounce of marijuana without fear of criminal prosecution.

That is a significant expansion from existing law which limits drug 
use and possession solely to those with specific ailments, a doctor's 
recommendation and a state-issued ID card. Only about 100,000 of 
these cards have been issued.

It also sets up a state agency to regulate sale of the drug through 
regulated dispensaries and imposes a tax, with some of the proceeds 
earmarked for education.

Johnson contends that the measure is legally flawed because petition 
signers and voters are not told in the required 100 word summary some 
of the other things the measure would do. These include affecting 
laws on driving under the influence of marijuana, the ability of 
companies to fire employees who have marijuana in their system, and 
limiting the ability of judges who are handling child custody cases 
to consider whether someone is using marijuana.

He also claims that the title of the initiative, the Campaign to 
Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, is itself misleading to voters.

"Rather than regulating marijuana like alcohol, the initiative makes 
marijuana a protected substance that adults have a legal right to 
use," Johnson wrote.

For example, he said it would block lawmakers from setting 
presumptive limits on how much psychoactive drug someone could have 
in the blood to be considered impaired. For liquor, a blood-alcohol 
content of 0.08 is presumed to be drunk driving and enough to sustain 
a conviction.

Herrera said it doesn't matter that everything the initiative would 
do is not in the summary. He said the only legal question for the 
court is whether the summary is fraudulent or misleading.

The justices are expected to take up the issue sometime this coming week.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom