Pubdate: Thu, 01 Sep 2016
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Bob Christie, Associated Press


Supreme Court Rejects the Final Legal Challenge to Ariz. Voter Initiative

A voter initiative to legalize recreational marijuana will be on the 
November ballot after the Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected 
a final legal challenge to the measure.

A lower court judge had thrown out the challenge, saying the group 
called Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy didn't have a right to sue.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry's ruling went on 
to reject all of the reasons opponents laid out for keeping the 
initiative off the ballot.

The opponents said initiative backers used illegal and 
unconstitutional "bait-and-switch tactics" and that the initiative 
violates Arizona's statutes in three ways. They include a misleading 
100-word summary that leaves out important provisions, an 
"incoherent" text and title that obscures the extent of its impact on 
other laws, and a failure to provide a legal funding mechanism.

The high court sidestepped the right to sue argument, with Chief 
Justice Scott Bales calling Gentry's reliance on a 2015 rewrite of a 
law "murky at best, and rather than wade into those waters, we turn 
to the merits."

Bales went on to affirm Gentry's ruling rejecting the merits of the 
opponents' lawsuit, saying the summary substantially complied with 
the law's requirements for initiatives.

The ruling means that Proposition 205 is on November's general election ballot.

Under the measure, adults 21 and older could carry up to one ounce of 
marijuana and consume it privately. Adults could also cultivate up to 
six marijuana plants in an enclosed space and possess the marijuana 
produced by the plants. No more than a dozen plants would be allowed 
in a single residence.

The system would regulate pot in a way proponents say is similar to 
alcohol, with a 15 percent tax on all retail marijuana sales. Most of 
the new state revenue would go to Arizona public schools and 
education programs.

Barrett Marson, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like 
Alcohol, said it was "a good day for voters who want to end marijuana 
prohibition in Arizona."

"Voters will get the opportunity that they requested - more than 
258,000 people signed a petition to put this before the voters," 
Marson said. "The Supreme Court agreed voters should have the final 
say on whether adults should have the right to legally purchase marijuana."

The Secretary of State confirmed that about 177,000 of those 
signatures were valid, more than the approximately 151,000 need to 
qualify for the ballot.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which includes two prominent 
county attorneys and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said they will 
now turn to urging voters to reject the measure.

"Our goal now is to make sure that every Arizonan enters the voting 
booth in November with a full understanding of both the intended and 
the unintended impacts of the 20 pages of new laws in Prop 205," 
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said in a statement. "We hope all 
citizens will read the lengthy legalese before voting and will learn 
how devastating Proposition 205 would be to our state if passed."

Opponents say backers have not told voters about changes to DUI laws, 
child custody issues, employment law and many other laws.

In another development Wednesday, a Maricopa County judge ordered one 
change to the ballot description voters will see but rejected other 
revisions sought by the backers.

Judge James Blomo agreed with the measure's backers that the 
description crafted by Secretary of State Michele Reagan wrongly said 
marijuana will be legal for people over 21, when it should be 21 and 
older, and ordered it changed.

Blomo rejected efforts to insert language showing that a 15 percent 
marijuana tax would mainly funds schools and enforcement efforts and 
another minor change. Blomo said omitting the descriptions aren't 
misleading and Reagan has the discretion to leave them off.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom