As Washington State and Colorado residents fire up pot freely, without fear of life altering ramifications… Other states around the country are growing jealous of their new-found freedoms, and are looking to join the fast-growing party of rational thinkers. Case and point – a computer programmer from the sweltering city of Phoenix, has fired up an initiative to legalize weed for recreational use in Arizona.
“The intent of the initiative is to legalize marijuana in Arizona and treat it as we treat alcohol,” noted the 59-year-old North Phoenix resident. Unfortunately for Mr. Bohlke, in order to get this initiative on the November 2014 ballot, he will need to harvest 259,213 valid signatures by early July of 2014.
The effort would amend the state Constitution to allow people 18 and older “to consume or possess limited amounts” of marijuana. The initiative would allow state officials to license grow facilities, marijuana stores and other facilities.
Bohlke acknowledged it will be challenging to gather the signatures necessary to place the initiative on the ballot without major funding.
In addition, law enforcement and prosecutors would likely mount a strong opposition campaign.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who has made the fight against medical marijuana a signature issue, said any effort to legalize pot “even through the initiative process, would run afoul of the same supremacy clause issues that Arizona’s medical-marijuana program faces.”
But Karen O’Keefe of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., a national legalization-advocacy group, said the proposed initiative “makes sure the state wouldn’t waste any more money arresting people for using a substance that’s objectively safer than alcohol and tobacco.
“It would also allow the state to regulate and control the industry and to generate substantial revenue” that would benefit Arizona residents “instead of drug dealers,” she said.
Bohlke said he is motivated by his pot-related brushes with the law. He was arrested twice in Scottsdale in 2010 on drug-related charges. Bohlke was stopped in February 2010 on suspicion of crossing the white line with his car, according to police records, and when the officer walked up to the vehicle he claimed he could smell marijuana. A search of the car turned up a small amount of marijuana stored in a mint box and a package of rolling papers, according to police. The case was dismissed last year after Bohlke’s defense raised questions about when the arresting officer gave Bohlke his Miranda warning.
“That is part of the motivation for doing this,” said Bohlke, who said he was stopped and searched by police without cause.
Bohlke was arrested again in July 2010 after a Scottsdale police officer said he failed to stop at a red light and initiated a DUI investigation, according to police records. Lab test results showed the presence of the metabolite associated with marijuana and Bohlke was convicted of being impaired to the slightest degree and driving under the influence of drugs, according to court records. The conviction is on appeal.
“It’s a very bad thing for people to get arrested for marijuana — especially for young people going to college and going to school,” he said. “It has a very bad impact on their life and I just think it’s time that we do something about it.”
Arizona politicians – notoriously behind the times when it comes to public sentiment, probably didn’t embrace the national survey released by the pew research Center back in April 2013. The eye-opening data highlighted the fact that 52% of Americans believe recreational marijuana smokers should be left alone, and weed legalized, taxed and treated like alcohol. It’s time for Arizona’s politicians to wake up and smell the chronic.