Arizona Supreme Court says legal marijuana measure on ballot




PHOENIX (AP) — 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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