Opinion: Arizona can get marijuana legalization right, again

Guest Column, Glendale Independent
By Bill Myer

I am 73 years old. Never in my later years did I think I would open Arizona’s first medical marijuana dispensary, but I did, in 2012. The public interest was high. Our location was in downtown Glendale. But what started as fanfare is now routine. That’s a good thing, though. You don’t hear about us anymore because we and all Arizona dispensaries operate safely and smartly in sound locations. It’s an instructive reminder as we ready to vote on Proposition 207 on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Attitudes about marijuana use continue to evolve, making legalization inevitable. This year Arizona has a unique opportunity to vote on a solid plan that learns from other states and builds on a successful Arizona program already in place.

It has been more than a decade since Arizona legalized medical marijuana.

There has been no documented increase in crime associated with dispensaries. People aren’t over-dosing on marijuana. Dispensaries are carefully monitored and highly regulated. Patients are getting the help and legal medicine they need to ease their pain and stay alive.

Now Arizona has a second opportunity to get it right. Prop 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, would legalize marijuana use for adults 21 and up. The benefits are significant.

Under this plan, dispensaries would still be limited in number and closely watched. In fact, the vast majority of marijuana stores would be located in the very same responsibly operated dispensaries serving Arizona now.

And just like the current medical marijuana law, the Smart and Safe Act bans smoking marijuana in public and open spaces.

Smart and Safe Arizona also improves on Proposition 205, the marijuana legalization effort that narrowly lost in 2016. Indeed, it has learned from its mistakes. Prop 207 was written from the ground up to address concerns expressed in 2016.

It provides additional safeguards to protect children, funding for law enforcement, public health, and community colleges.

It learns from the mistakes of the past, in the hopes of creating a better future.

Proposition 207 also comes with a long list of safeguards.

Marijuana packaging would be child proof, just like the current dispensary system and likewise products could not be labeled to attract kids nor could advertising target minors. Edibles could not be sold that resemble children’s candy.

Levels of THC in edibles would be clearly labeled and limited to prevent customers from ingesting too much.

There are numerous precautions and laws similar to how alcohol is regulated. Someone who uses marijuana and then drives impaired faces strict penalties. There’s no free ride just because it’s pot in-stead of alcohol. The same logic pertains to the workplace. Your boss can fire you for marijuana use on the job and can test you for marijuana use. If you can’t work drunk, don’t expect to be allowed to work stoned.

Property and business owners have the right to ban marijuana use from their premises. Smoking marijuana would be banned from public places and open spaces.

The Smart and Safe Act makes sense in this current COVID-19 crisis. It would generate an additional $300 million a year in state tax revenues.

Smart and Safe benefits law enforcement in other ways too. It relieves police departments of the obligation to enforce outdated and unneeded recreational marijuana laws. The court system won’t be jammed up with these petty offenses. This gives police and prosecutors more time and resources to go after legitimate threats to public safety.

Besides new jobs, the measure also creates a path to prosperity for countless Arizonans who have mi-nor marijuana possession convictions on their records. Under Prop 207, those non-violent convictions would be expunged. That makes getting a job or housing a little easier.

Finally, as a dispensary owner, I have seen the benefits of people served by medical marijuana. Cancer patients (like me), people suffering from arthritis, and those who suffer with post-traumatic stress, to name a few, have all benefited. Legalization for adults would bring more benefits. It may help cut down on prescription drug abuse and the deadly overdoses that can follow. It will assist in pain and stress relief for sufferers who may be too timid or lack the financial resources for a $300 medical marijuana card.

Quite simply, if you support Arizona’s current and successful medical marijuana laws, as most state residents do, you’ll see that Prop 207 is a logical next step. It corrects and fine tunes previous attempts at legalization by incorporating safety measures and targeting funding to where it’s needed. Learn from other states. Listen to concerns. And craft a plan by and for Arizona and not have one imposed by national interests. That’s Prop 207.

Arizona Organix is a family business founded by Bill Myer, Ben Myer and Ryan Wells. A few years later they were joined by Mark Myer.