Arizona soon will have legal recreational marijuana after approval by about 60% of voters in a high-turnout election. As we’ve said before, this carries some negatives for our society, including greater use by vulnerable young people, who can suffer permanent harm, and hazards on the roads. However, it has been proposed before here, we already have medical marijuana and more states have been approving recreational use.
Those 21 and over will be allowed to possess and grow marijuana for personal use as soon as the vote is certified at the end of this month. Medical marijuana dispensaries will have the first crack at distributing to all adults. However, the first licenses will not be approved until March or April. Recreational edibles will be more limited in potency than the medical version.
Also, hundreds of thousands of people will be eligible to have their criminal records for personal possession expunged beginning July 12, 2021. The excise tax, on top of regular sales tax, will be 16%. The state is estimating proceeds to be $254 million annually, while initiative backers had said $300 million. That will go to administering the new industry and also supporting community colleges. Backers said if they had selected K-12 education, it would have been seen as a token amount.
Places that have legal marijuana see persistent black market sales, and the reasons generally given are price and quality of the legal weed. There was not a major effort at promoting legalization as an alternative to drug cartels. Besides the black market situation, smugglers already have been focusing on drugs that are much more dangerous, more profitable and easier to smuggle.
Perhaps recreational marijuana was inevitable in Arizona. However, state lawmakers and citizens should be watching to see if further legislation is needed to ameliorate the effect. The initiative itself can be modified only by a vote of the people. Guidance for young people will be more important than ever.