Push to legalize recreational marijuana

Posted: Updated:
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- On Monday morning, there will be a new era of lawmakers in Arizona. The new governor and legislators will have a lot to weigh in on, including whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana.

Advocates say legalizing it probably won't happen this year. Proponents, including attorney Ryan Hurley, argue the prospects of a decriminalization bill getting a fair hearing at the Legislature are essentially zero. He, along with others, are taking matters into their own hands.

"We're talking about millions and potentially tens of millions in savings for the criminal justice system," said Hurley of Rose Law Group. He said he's been working around the clock, crafting a voter initiative to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.

"We're likely to draft the initiative in a way that protects the medical marijuana program that is beneficial for the state and for the marijuana consumers in the state of Arizona that will pass muster with the voters," he said.

Hurley said there's no hope a state law will be passed in the Legislature after a failed effort by Democratic lawmaker Mark Cardenas to introduce a bill legalizing the recreational use.

"That's why we're working day and night getting a bill ready for the 2016 session to run as a citizens' initiative," Hurley said.

He said he's confident the initiative will register with voters and cited polling for the legalization at more than 50 percent. He also said the move would generate $50 million to $100 million the first year alone in Arizona.

"It's the way that the country is heading, it's the way that Arizona is heading and I think what we're able to do is we're able to realize that having a fully functional medical marijuana program that transitions into an adult use, if they so desire, is the best way to do it," Hurley said.