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Initiative To Legalize Recreational Marijuana Sparks Concern In Phoenix

Medical marijuana
(Photo by Mark - CC BY 2.0)
Medical marijuana.

Some Phoenix council members are concerned about the statewide ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana after learning about a key provision that could limit their control.

It is informally called the campaign to "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol," while the actual text of the initiative refers to the "Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act".

The text spans 36 pages, but it's just one paragraph on page 17 that generated concern among some city leaders.

“It couldn’t be any clearer to me that we need to move as quickly as possible," District 3 Councilman Bill Gates said during Tuesday's special council meeting.

Part of the initiative text says that cities can choose to ban marijuana stores, but it also says that cities cannot stop a current medical marijuana dispensary from reorganizing into a recreational retailer.

Currently, Phoenix has 14 dispensaries and District 2 Councilman Jim Waringexpressed concern about a potential rush to open more. 

“They have every incentive to sort of get in under the wire so they don’t have to deal with us going forward," he said.

Council members heard from an attorney representing medical marijuana dispensaries. Ryan Hurley equated dispensaries to pharmacies and recreation retailers to liquor stores.  

Hurley said there was no justification to be any harder on recreational marijuana retailers, but council members directed staff to find out just how tough the city can get. 

Supporters to legalize recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older must gather signatures from just over 150,000 registered voters by June to get the item on the November ballot.



As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.