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Legalizing marijuana goes before AZ voters in November

Published: Aug. 12, 2016 at 1:38 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:19 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Come November, Arizonans will be voting on whether or not marijuana becomes legal. The Secretary of State confirmed that supporters have gathered enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol met in Phoenix on Wednesday afternoon and said they've gotten more than the required 150,642 signatures.

"This isn't a question of yes marijuana or no marijuana," said chairman of the campaign J.P. Holyoak. "This is a question of 'Are we going to tax it, regulate it and send it to the schools? Or are we just going to keep it illegal for the criminal drug dealer?"

The measure would allow adults aged 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana. It would also have an added 15 percent tax that will be going mainly to schools and will be regulated similar to alcohol.

"We have a situation where we actually know more than they did back in 1937," said Jeffrey Singer, a Phoenix-based general surgeon who spoke at Wednesday's press conference. "I don't think marijuana is as risky as alcohol. I think it's much less risky than alcohol."

Singer spoke alongside former supervisor and special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Mike Capasso, who believes legalizing marijuana will not increase crime; he says it might even lower it.

"I think you actually take the criminal element out of it because no longer underground, it's above ground." said Capasso.

But in Tucson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Lea Marquez-Peterson said the group opposes the initiative and said THCC recently began working with Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP) in an effort to educate the community about their concerns.

In a recent newsletter, THCC said legalizing marijuana for retail sale and recreational use "is not a simple social issue." Marquez-Peterson said business owners are concerned with the inability to have a drug-free work place.

"Either they're concerned about safety, and having that drug-free workplace or they're speaking to their attorneys trying to figure out, what are the ramifications that someone comes to work stoned or has traces of marijuana in their system, what do I do?," said Marquez-Peterson. "It's very gray, so this is not a good direction for the state of Arizona."

A court challenge to the initiative is set for a hearing on Friday, Aug 12.

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