Why Legal Cannabis is Good for Arizona
The pandemic has plunged America and Arizona into a historic economic decline. Tens of millions have lost their jobs, including hundreds of thousands in Arizona. Thousands have filed bankruptcies.
In this new, financially precarious world, states must take action to balance their budgets. The federal government is unlikely to fill the gap no matter who wins in November.
One proven source to help alleviate the budget strain is marijuana (cannabis) legalization, and the Smart and Safe Arizona Act would help reduce Arizona’s current $700 million budget deficit.
U.S. medical and recreation cannabis sales will exceed $15 billion this year, a 40% jump from 2019, and estimates project it to reach $37 billion by 2024.
Revenue from pot would fund critical services
In Arizona alone, where recreational cannabis is on the Nov. 3 ballot as Proposition 207, tens of millions in revenue would be generated. That windfall will help keep teachers employed, allow residents to receive proper medical care and keep our communities safe.
The cannabis industry has also proven to be nearly recession-proof during the pandemic. Sales were deemed essential in states where it has been legalized.
In neighboring Colorado, the cannabis industry set a record in monthly cannabis product sales in June, nearly $200 million. In Pennsylvania cannabis dispensaries did $385 million in business since February, more than they had during the previous two years combined.
And in Illinois, which legalized cannabis this year, the state set a record in July for sales. In just the first six months of the year, it collected $52 million in tax revenue.
Arizona could gain $250-$300 million annually
And in Arizona? According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the 16% excise tax plus the regular sales taxes on recreational marijuana products would generate $250 million in revenue. Another study by Smart and Safe Arizona estimates the figure to be $300 million a year.
At a time when resources are stretched thin across the state the additional funding would benefit Arizonans. Thirty-three percent would be directed to community colleges to help make education more affordable as colleges become more expensive. Police and fire departments would receive over 31% of the revenue. A quarter of the money would be spent on infrastructure like highways and roads.
For those concerned about health care and possible social fallout, the state Department of Health Services would use part of the revenue to shore up public health programs for addiction prevention, substance abuse, suicide prevention and mental health programs.
Prop. 207 includes lessons from other states
Lessons learned from other states would be applied to Arizona, including the elimination of marketing to children or products that look like toys or fruits – think gummy bears – and capping the maximum amount of THC in edibles to prevent accidental overdoses. The proposition also does not force any employer to permit the use of marijuana on the job.
Millions of Americans have already embraced the potential upside of cannabis. Thirty-five states now allow either recreational or medicinal marijuana, including 11 recreationally.
Studies have shown these states experience advantages beyond financial gain, like a decrease in drug use by teens, an increase in consumer safety because of regulations and a reduction in law enforcement costs.
There's a movement afoot to ease pot policies
Even on the federal level, which at times has been at odds with state legislatures, the House of Representatives is moving forward on cannabis reform. They have adopted provisions to protect medical legalization laws from federal interference and ease marijuana companies’ access to banking services.
By helping the state absorb the impact of this unprecedented challenge, passing cannabis legalization will promote job growth and help preserve important government services.
Taking action and voting this November will prove to be an indispensable tool on multiple fronts.