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Judge To Hear Arguments Over Whether Arizonans Can Vote On Initiative To Legalize Recreational Pot

(Photo courtesy of YouTube)

A judge will hear arguments Aug. 12 over whether Arizonans will be allowed to vote on whether they want to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

At a hearing Tuesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry set aside three hours to hear from both sides. Attorney Brett Johnson, who represents challengers, said the ballot measure is legally flawed. Supporters claim it would regulate marijuana the way the state regulates alcohol, but Johnson said that's not true.

Existing law says employees can't use alcohol at work. And the initiative would bar the use of marijuana on the job. "But this goes one step further and says to take action [against marijuana use], the employer has to prove negligence or professional malpractice. So that is not like alcohol," Johnson said.

And he argued a provision giving existing medical marijuana dispensary owners first crack at the limited number of licenses for recreational sale also has no parallel in alcohol laws.

But Kory Langhofer, who is representing recreational marijuana supporters, said there is nothing wrong— and definitely nothing fraudulent— about selling the initiative to voters as a move to set up a system of regulating marijuana that parallels what already exists for alcohol. He said the similarities are far greater than any differences.

"It's legal with licenses and taxes and restrictions on where and when you can sell it, how you can use it. When you say to someone, 'basically, how is alcohol regulated,' that's what they would say," Langhofer said.

And what about the differences that Johnson cites, like in employment law and the provision on who gets the first marijuana licenses?

"Immaterial," Langhofer said.