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Prop 205: A closer look at the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act ballot measure


Elizabeth Medora

NORTH VALLEY – How do you feel about marijuana legalization? This Election Day, Arizona voters will decide if marijuana should be legalized in this state. Proposition 205, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, has inspired debate on each side. If voters approve this legislation, Arizona will join four other states that have conditionally legalized marijuana.


Breaking down the ballot measure

According to the Prop 205 Legislative Council Analysis in the 2016 General Election Pamphlet distributed through the Secretary of State’s office, Prop 205 would “allow a person who is at least 21 years of age to lawfully possess and use 1 ounce or less of marijuana”. This legislation would also create a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, which would oversee the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana throughout the state. Arizona’s governor would appoint the director of this department and seven members of the Marijuana Commission.

The Legislative Council Analysis specifies that an additional 15 percent tax on retail sales of marijuana would be imposed. Funds raised through application, licensing, administrative fees, taxes, and fines and penalties are then slated for a Marijuana Fund. The Marijuana Fund breakdown: first, operating costs for the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control and the regulation ensuing would be paid. Secondly, 50 percent of the license fees from each marijuana-related business would be slated for the city, town, or county in which the business is located. The final distribution of the Marijuana Fund would be 40 percent to school districts and charter schools for educational expenses, another 40 percent to school districts and charter schools for full-day kindergarten, and 20 percent to the Arizona Department of Health Services for public education campaigns regarding alcohol, marijuana, and other substances.

Operating any kind of vehicle while under the influence of marijuana would remain strictly illegal, according to the Legislative Council Analysis. Providing marijuana to anyone under 21 is also illegal, as is possession or use of marijuana while on the grounds of any K-12 school. Employers can prohibit smoking marijuana on workplace grounds, and further restrictions may be put in place.

The regulation of the bill includes a clause that voters of a town, city, or county could enact a measure prohibiting certain types of marijuana establishments in that area.

The violations clause of the bill specifies that smoking in a public place, underage use, unauthorized production, and possession of more than one ounce (but not more than 2.5 ounces) of marijuana would all be subject to petty offense penalties of a maximum fine of $300 and community restitution.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee released a required fiscal impact statement and projected that the taxes and licensing fees would generate $53.4 million in FY 2019 and $82 million in FY 2020. Based on those estimates, Arizona schools are projected to receive approximately $30 million total in 2019 and $55 million in 2020.


Arguments for and against
According to a Sept. 7 Cronkite News article, about 50 percent of Arizona voters are in favor of legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana use for Arizona adults 21 and older. (Poll: About half of voters favor making marijuana use legal for adults, by Cassie Ronda, with contributions from Veronica Acosta)

The 2016 General Election Pamphlet lists pages of arguments on both sides of the debate.

Retired DEA Supervisory Special Agent Michael Capasso and retired DEA Agent Finn Selander, both of Phoenix, cosigned a letter in the 2016 General Election Pamphlet in support of passing Prop 205.

“Each of us put in 20 or more years in the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement entities. And both of us realize that marijuana prohibition is a failed drug policy that should end,” reads the second paragraph of the letter.

“Prohibition doesn’t keep marijuana off our streets or decrease use,” the letter continues. “And it certainly doesn’t keep marijuana out of the hands of teens. But prohibition does result in billions of dollars in profits flowing to drug cartels.”

“We have seen the consequences of America’s marijuana prohibition policies. It is long past time to allow adults to legally buy marijuana. Taxation and strict regulation should be the mantra when it comes to marijuana. Now that we are retired from the DEA, we can speak out and say that marijuana should be taxed and regulated to keep profits from ruining our streets and causing mayhem south of the border.”

“We support Proposition 205 because cartels should not continue to rake in our dollars and create havoc on our streets,” the former DEA agents’ letter concludes.

According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, financial contributors to the Campaign to Treat Marijuana Like Alcohol, Sponsored by Marijuana Policy Project include multiple Valley dispensaries; Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a California-based company and the top contributor at $100,000; and Arizonans for Responsible Legalization, among others.

Opponents of the legalization ballot measure include the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Arizona Policy, and Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy.

In a 2016 General Election Pamphlet letter sponsored by Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey called the proposition a “massive, special-interest giveaway.”

“The marijuana industry wrote this ballot measure to benefit themselves,” Ducey wrote. “It’s 20 pages long and filled with loopholes and special treatment for companies already in the marijuana business, and it creates a new Commission and a new state Department. It’s self-enrichment at its worst, and Arizonans will pay the price.”

Per the Secretary of State’s Office, some of the main financial contributors to opposing group Arizonans For Responsible Drug Policy include top contributor Discount Tire, which provided $1,000,000; Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry; and second highest contributor INSYS Therapeutics Inc. (listed in the SOS spreadsheet as Insys Terapeutics Inc.). INSYS Therapeutics Inc. provided $500,000 to the opposition campaign; this pharmaceutical company notes on their Web site that they are working with pharmaceutical cannabinoids. The company is known for producing Subsys, a Fentanyl sublingual spray that treats pain caused by cancer.

See more about financial contributions at Read the full text of the ballot measure application at

Cast your vote on Nov. 8 to help decide the outcome of Prop 205.

To find your polling place,