Arizona Rejects Recreational Marijuana - But Will It Matter?

Arizona Rejects Recreational Marijuana

Voters in Arizona have rejected Proposition 205 to legalize recreational marijuana. Tuesday’s result was close with 981,948 no votes (52.2 percent) and 900,814 yes votes. The proposition called for legalizing possession and consumption of cannabis by adults 21 and older. Medical marijuana was legalized in Arizona in 1996.

Adam Deguire of the anti-legalization campaign, told The Arizona Republic that voters “saw through an initiative drafted by marijuana special interests.” He added: “The defeat of Proposition 205 helps to secure a safe and prosperous future for Arizona for many years to come.” He said the campaign’s most effective messaging was sharing how Colorado was affected by marijuana legalization on several fronts: public safety, youth use and public funding of education from tax revenues.

The CBS television program 60 Minutes visited Colorado in October to report on the ramifications of cannabis legalization there. The newsmagazine talked with a pediatrician who is concerned by what he has seen in his own hospital. “In the first nine months of this year, 27 babies born at this hospital tested positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana,” he told 60 Minutes. “That’s on track to be about 15 percent higher than last year.”

Leading up to the election, recreational marijuana use was legal in only four states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. With the addition of California, Massachusetts and Nevada, the percentage of Americans living in states where recreational marijuana use is legal for adults rose above the 20 percent mark, from 5 percent before.

Arizona voters seem to have weighed the implications of marijuana legalization carefully but their state now shares borders with three states that have fully legalized it. California in particular should be of concern.

According to the New York Times, the yes vote in California “reinforced the state’s position as the epicenter of marijuana cultivation for the country, a role it has had illicitly for decades. Marijuana companies have been positioning themselves for the prospect of interstate commerce, buying large plots of land in areas that now grow vegetables and other crops.”

Once cannabis cultivation swings into full gear in neighboring California, it’s hard to imagine that Arizona will not feel any negative impact despite voting against recreational marijuana.