New bills would drastically change Arizona’s marijuana laws

There are two new bills in the Arizona House of Representatives that would reform the possession and legality of marijuana in the state.

Representative Mark Cardenas, from the 19th District, is sponsoring two bills in the House, House Bill 2006 and House Bill 2007. HB 2006 would make it legal to possess marijuana in Arizona if you are over the age of 21. The substance would then be taxable, and the returns from that would go to other areas of need. HB2007 would reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a civil fine of not more than $100.

“(HB) 2006, what it would do is create a system of dispensaries in Arizona,” said Cardenas. “The revenue from that would go toward drug treatment programs, K-12 education, things that we desperately need funding for and support for that we don’t fund through the legislation very well.”

As these bills are presented in the House, it is easy to look at the states that have already legalized the drug for reference. Proponents and opponents of the bill look to Colorado as an example of why Arizona should or shouldn’t legalize marijuana.

“We have seen the great economic benefits of legalizing marijuana in other states like Colorado,” said Carlos Alfaro, the political director for the Marijuana Policy in Arizona. “Last year there was about a billion dollars of sales in marijuana, that all happened in a legal market, away from a black market.”

While some people may feel that the financial gains from Colorado would benefit Arizona greatly, there are other who believe the financial numbers reported from Colorado can be misleading.

“They’re showing increased revenue, I don’t know that they are showing net gains just yet,” said Seth Leibsohn, of the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. “They still have a thriving black market in places like Colorado… You are not going to be to ever make up for the amount of damage that marijuana causes.”

While there are differing opinions on the benefits of marijuana legalization, both sides will have to wait to see what happens in the coming weeks at the Capitol.

States that currently allow marijuana useInfographic