Arizona Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Amendment (2014)

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An Arizona Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Amendment did not appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Arizona as an initiated constitutional amendment, but will likely appear on the 2016 ballot, instead. The measure, which was being sponsored by the group, "Safer Arizona," would have asked voters if the state constitution should be amended to allow citizens 18 years of age and older to grow, smoke and possess marijuana for purposes other than medical use. As the result of a 2010 ballot question, medical marijuana was legal in the state as of the proposal of this measure.[1][2]

Supporters announced while volunteers were still active that they were very far behind schedule on their signature collection. Many had given up hope for a 2014 ballot because of the lack of funding. Instead, they set their sights on a 2016 initiative, as, reportedly, there was a strong possibility for a financial backer for a 2016 measure.[3]


In 2010, Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, a medical marijuana measure, by a small margin of 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. This proposition allowed state residents with certain medical conditions to use a specified amount of marijuana as part of their treatment. Additionally, the Arizona Department of Health Services was put in charge of regulating the sale and use of the marijuana for medicinal purposes. After Proposition 203 was approved, specific rules were released detailing who was permitted to grow, distribute and use marijuana. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) filed a lawsuit to confirm that the new law was indeed legal. However, the lawsuit was subsequently dropped.[4][5][6][7][8]

Safer Arizona based their measure off of similar measures that were successful in Colorado and Washington in 2012. The Colorado initiative, Amendment 64, was approved only six years after a similar measure was defeated in the state. Amendment 64 legalized the use and possession of marijuana for those 21 and older, though a person cannot possess more than an ounce of marijuana. The state was tasked with regulating sales of the drug. Washington's Initiative 502 legalized the production, possession, delivery and distribution of marijuana for people 21 and older. Additionally, the measure made it illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC - an active ingredient of marijuana - per milliliter of blood in their system.[2]

One difference between the proposed Arizona amendment and the initiatives in Colorado and Washington was the age at which people could legally possess marijuana. For the Arizona measure, it would have been 18 years of age and older, but for those in Washington and Colorado, the age limit was 21 and older. Another difference between the initiatives was that Arizona's proposed that police must submit video-taped evidence of impairment when performing sobriety tests if said evidence was to be admissible in court during driving while impaired by marijuana cases.[2]


The group, "Safer Arizona," which was led by Dennis Bohlke, sponsored the measure. The Arizona branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, referred to as AZ4NORML, said it would support the measure, as well.[1]


The group, "Keep AZ Drug-free," was opposed to the potential ballot measure. Group member Jessica Smith said, "We knew all along that medicinal was baby steps to full legalization, which now the pro drug lobby has come out and announced their efforts to do so."[9] Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor had this to say about the proposed amendment:

A particularly troubling aspect of this initiative is that it sets the acceptable age for use of marijuana to 18 (voting age) which is even less restrictive than the regulations concerning alcohol, which prohibit its use until 21. If passed, this initiative will place an even greater number of immature young adults behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after legally consuming a substance that impairs their judgment and motor skills.[2][10]

—Roberto Villaseñor, Tucson Police Chief

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Arizona Constitution

Supporters had to collect 259,213 signatures by July 3, 2014 if the measure was to appear on the 2014 ballot.[1]

Supporters reported that they were very behind on signature gathering, but that there was also a possibility of better financial backing for the measure in 2016.[3] A July 1 post on Safer Arizona's Facebook profile announced that the group would cease gathering signatures for the 2014 ballot and focus, instead, on 2016.[11]

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